Road transport through the West Midlands has secured a second major boost with plans for a £65 million giant motorway service station.
Plans have been unveiled for a new motorway service area between junctions five and six of the M42, creating 300 new jobs, in a project hailed as a huge economic and travel boost to the region.
The new service station will be the first to be opened in the West Midlands since Hopwood, near Bromsgrove in 1999 – and will be the largest motorway facility of its kind across the region's road network.
It comes just days after the Government announced a project to improve the M42 was among more than 80 new road schemes.
Planners say the Solihull Motorway Service Area, located to the west of the M42 and south of Solihull Road, close to Birmingham Airport, will complete the development jigsaw centred around the growth of the NEC, Birmingham Airport and Solihull.
Andrew Long, chief executive of motorway service station operators Extra MSA Group, said: "This will be the busiest motorway service area in the West Midlands by a significant margin and is much needed.
"We would expect this to be in the top three or four busiest locations of its kind in the UK. It very much puts Solihull on the map.
"Subject to planning consent, we could be on site by 2016 and we are looking to open by the third or fourth quarter of 2017. This will create 300 permanent full-time jobs. You have got the NEC, the Airport, HS2 – it is already a very busy location"
Plans for a service station in the area date back to a previous proposal for the site which had been recognised to be of benefit.
However, the scheme was turned down by the Government in 2009 amid concerns over an impact on a Highways Agency Smart Motorways pilot on the M42.
Sue Manns, from planning consultancy Pegasus Group, said: "There has previously been a need identified for a motorway service area for this location off the M42. This will be the missing link.
"There is a social case and an economic case, regionally and locally. The need for this was recognised and that need is greater now; traffic flows are greater."
Planners say potential concerns over increased traffic on local roads will be overcome through the provision of a new £12 million junction to the north of Solihull Road, which will provide access to the site.
Mr Long said there was a significant need for the services with none for miles around.
He said: "Motorway services are a commercial enterprise but they also play a significant role in the safety and welfare of road users.
"Government policy aims to ensure that there is opportunity to stop and take a break at intervals of no more than 30 minutes (typically 28 miles)."
The project will also pave the way for the £1.5 million restoration of the nearby Grade II-listed Walford Hall Farm, which has been derelict for several years, along with new woodland planting and landscaping.
A total of 20,000 leaflets will be distributed to nearby homes outlining the proposals. Two exhibitions have been arranged where members of the project team will be on hand to listen to the public's views on the proposed plans as well as answer any questions.
The first exhibition is at Catney Village Hall in Catherine de Barnes on Friday December 12, from 2.30pm to 8pm.