Controversial Bescot railway sleeper factory 'would create jobs'
A proposed rail sleeper factory in Wednesbury would help tackle Sandwell's high unemployment, Network Rail has argued.
This is despite strong opposition from residents who believe the factory would increase pollution and impact their lives.
The purpose of the factory, earmarked for land at Bescot Railway Sidings, would be to manufacture 60 per cent - or 600,000 - of Britain's required sleepers each year.
- Campaigners step up fight against Bescot sleeper factory plans
- Controversial sleeper factory plans submitted to Sandwell Council
But campaigners have argued this location is not suitable and it will increase traffic and pollution in the surrounding area.
As the plans have attracted criticism, Network Rail has highlighted the potential job creation, particularly for young people.
The factory would create 104 permanent jobs alongside 150 temporary construction jobs.
A planning document read: "There are high youth unemployment levels within Sandwell, which creates an opportunity for the proposed development to provide jobs for people without them and drive opportunities to upskill the local workforce through opportunities to progress within these roles.
"This scheme will be particularly impactful in Sandwell due to the high unemployment rate experienced by 16 to 24-year olds – 25.8 per cent compared to 12.4 per cent across England and Wales.
"The proposed development once operational will also maintain an apprenticeship scheme for up to five apprenticeship places."
Planning documents also highlighted how Sandwell's unemployment rate is 8.4 per cent - which is much higher than the national average of 4.5 per cent.
But this will not likely change the minds of residents who are strongly against this. More than 6,000 residents have signed petitions and written objection letters.
Carol White, from campaign group Wednesbury Action Group, said: "We are fighting for our children's health and well-being."
Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, added: “Now the planning application is in, we need everyone in the community who opposes this development to say an emphatic NO to Network Rail’s proposal.
"A concrete sleeper factory will increase noise, air and traffic pollution and damage our children’s health.
"Bescot is absolutely not the right place for this factory. I hope all residents will show Sandwell Council just how strongly they oppose this development. I certainly will be.”
Sandwell Council is yet to decide on the plans.