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Objectors to rail hub scheme fear 'concreting' of the countryside and impact on roads

People have slammed proposals for a massive rail freight hub between Leicester and Hinckley as a "blight on the community" and a "monstrosity" which would devastate the countryside and exacerbate traffic problems. Plans for the £750m, 440-acre Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange by developer Tritax Symmetry are in the process of being examined by the Planning Inspectorate, which has now published representations submitted by members of the public.

Objections and concerns about the proposed development make up the vast majority of comments, although some locals have criticised the negative reaction and said the plan would be 'beneficial', 'valuable' and 'inject vitality' into the local economy.

Borough and county councillors, as well as the MPs for Bosworth and South Leicestershire, have all lodged concerns. Parish, town and borough councils, as well as countryside charities and local interest groups have also left responses expressing worries about the impact the massive developments would have on local roads, infrastructure and countryside.

Many of those who responded feared the loss of the countryside near Burbage Common, which they described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘a place for peace and meditation’. One objector said the scheme would "blight a significant area".

Another said: “What chance will wildlife have with concreting the countryside and polluting the night with bright light." While the Forestry Commission said: "Freeholt woods and Burbage Woods are on the boundary of the proposed site.

"Both are ancient semi-natural woodlands. While they are not within the site, they can still be impacted due to their proximity." Meanwhile, local roads – particularly the A5 – which are often subject to traffic jams and delays were another frequently mentioned concern.

Terence Richardson, leader of Blaby District Council, said: "The purpose of a strategic rail freight interchange is to reduce road transport movements, something most would support. All this site will do is to move the problem to a different location which does not have the infrastructure to cope."

Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire, said he was 'deeply concerned' about several aspects of the proposals. Dr Luke Evans, MP for Bosworth, revealed he had sent out surveys to local residents about the scheme with more than 96 per cent of responses being against it.

Many objectors have questioned why the development was needed at all, pointing out there are large freight hubs in Daventry and further up the M1 near Kegworth. "It is not required here and will in no way benefit the local community,” one member of the public said.

But there are people who welcome the scheme and are frustrated at the depth of ill-will towards it. One supporter said: "Please do not be swayed by a legion of 'not in my back yard' residents who are only concerned with their small portion of the world rather than the greater interests of society.”

Another person said: “Everyone here seems to be objecting, but they also complain about the terrible potholes, the lack of bus and GP services. Where do they think the money is to come from?”

Another response read: “The economic benefits of this project will undoubtedly inject vitality into our local economy and provide invaluable employment and business opportunities.” Some were keen to see the changes to the roads the scheme would bring, according to another respondent, who wrote: "If it gives access to and from the M69 to relieve traffic flow in Burbage then I think it is a great idea.”

Nick Payne, development director at developer Tritax Symmetry has previously said the scheme was about “investing in Leicestershire, the environment and the future”. He said: “Our plan will deliver thousands of jobs, new apprenticeships and skills development as well as huge carbon savings by HGVs off local roads.

“Over the past few years, we’ve undertaken three rounds of consultation, issued thousands of letters to local communities, held a number of face-to-face meetings and spoken with businesses, politicians and community groups and we will continue to engage as our plans progress. We also recently polled over a thousand local residents across South Leicestershire and Hinckley and Bosworth, who are keen to see new investment in the area that our scheme could deliver.”

Interested parties who filed a representation will be able to give more detailed responses and a series of hearings will be held by the Planning Inspectorate.

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