A £32 million road improvement plan to kick-start Birmingham International Airport’s runway extension is in doubt – because funding arrangements may not be lawful.
The A45 Coventry Road must be moved from the airport perimeter before work on the extension can begin.
And Birmingham City Council intends to split the cost of the huge project with neighbouring Solihull Council.
But a private meeting of the Birmingham cabinet decided to postpone a decision to hand £16 million to Solihull in order to take legal advice.
The lawyers are being called in because there are concerns that the city council cannot be seen to directly fund the airport, which is a private company.
City leaders remain confident, however, that they will get the go-ahead from top lawyers to pay for the A45 scheme.
They point out that diverting the A45 between the Damson Parkway junction and the Clock roundabout will also be of general benefit to motorists by providing a faster route into Birmingham, the airport and the NEC. The plan would lift pressure from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, which originally intended to finance the road, but has since been hit by its own financial problems.
AWM’s failure to come forward with the cash has been a sticking point in getting work on the £120 million runway extension off the ground, and airport bosses admit the business case for a longer runway does not stack up in the current dire economic climate.
The city council’s commitment to diverting the A45 has angered environmentalists, with Friends of the Earth describing the proposal as a “highly questionable use of public funds”.
Birmingham FOE spokesman Joe Peacock said: “We have real concerns that this proposal would open up areas of greenbelt close to the airport for future development.”
A city council spokeswoman said: “We have deferred approval of the report until April to allow final checking of the legal implications.”