Decision due on future of controversial Bescot sleeper factory
The fate of the controversial Bescot sleeper factory will be decided at a crunch meeting next week.
Plans for an extraordinary council planning meeting have been in the works for months, but the date has finally been set for Tuesday, December 17.
A decision will be made about proposals from Network Rail for a sleeper factory in Bescot sidings on the Sandwell and Walsall border.
But plans to build the factory, which will provide up to 600,000 railway sleepers every year, have been met with fierce opposition from residents living locally.
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They have called it a "death sentence" for locals and have collected more than 6,000 formal objections to the scheme.
If approved, the factory would provide 60 per cent of Britain’s annual sleeper requirement.
Campaigners say the factory would add an additional 75,000 vehicle movements a year to already busy roads, and have a major impact on the health of neighbours due to the amount of silicone dust produced.
But Network Rail has dismissed these claims, and have said protestors are "grossly exaggerating" elements of the proposals.
Carol White, from Wednesbury Action Group, said the group had asked Sandwell Council if the meeting could be moved to the New Year, as it was so close to Christmas – but Network Rail had apparently refused.
She said: "The meeting was originally going to be this week but was moved because of the general election, to December 17.
"But we're concerned as it's so close to Christmas, people will be at parties, shopping. We might not get as much support as normally.
"We're obviously hoping to get the application refused. We are being given the opportunity to speak, the whole meeting is dedicated to this one item. We want to get across the human aspect.
"If this goes ahead, all the children here will be breathing in silicone dust from the factory for the rest of their lives.
"If the council approves it, they will be giving them a death sentence."
Jon Crampton, a spokesman for Network Rail, said: “We will be attending Sandwell council’s planning committee meeting on Tuesday, December 17 where a decision will be made regarding our application for a new concrete sleeper facility in Bescot.”
The public meeting will be held at Sandwell Council at 5pm.