Fresh proposals for a motorway service station situated near a leafy Solihull village would be less damaging to the environment than a previous application which the Government was "minded to approve", a public inquiry heard yesterday.
Traffic calming measures on the M42 have made the environmental impact of the service station near to the village of Catherine-de-Barnes "less adverse" than when a first public inquiry was held in 1999, the inquiry was told.
The first inquiry, which began in 1999, ended with the Secretary of State announcing that he was "minded to approve" the application.
However, the final go-ahead for plans, which would swallow an ancient woodland, a Grade II listed farmhouse and 65 acres of green belt in the Meriden Gap, was never given.
David Huskisson was speaking as an expert witness for Swayfields Limited, who aim to build the complex between junctions 5 (Solihull) and 6 (NEC).
He also told the inquiry that the impact of light coming from the site would be less intrusive because of the Active Traffic Management (ATM) system.
The inquiry heard that "significant infrastructure" had been erected on the motorway, including sign gantries at 500-metre sections, and 15-metre high lights at 50-metre sections.
Mr Huskisson, an urban design and environmental planning expert, told the inquiry that the infrastructure constituted an urban landscape surrounding the motorway.
He said: "It is my opinion that these lights on the ATM would reduce the impact of lighting of the MSS site."
Earlier he told the inquiry that the ATM had "increased the landscape and visual effects of the motorway by day and night into a wider corridor than before".
He added: "I would therefore request that the inspector reconfirms to the Secretary of State that the appeal site at Catherine-de-Barnes is an appropriate site for a motorway service area and there are no changed landscape or visual circumstance that has arisen that would result in more serious effects than previously predicted.
"Rather, the adverse effects would be somewhat less because of the erosion in landscape quality that has arisen from the ATM works."
The inquiry also heard Henley-in-Arden resident George Goodall give evidence on behalf of Solihull Against Motorway Service Area Group (SAMSAG).
He said: "SAMSAG will concentrate on a number of areas that were not considered adequately in the original inquiry.
"These matters - agricultural, transport policy, air pollution and green belt - will be explored.
"SAMSAG will suggest that the lack of details that were presented at the previous inquiry puts the case for giving the Catherine-de-Barnes application 'very special circumstances' in grave doubt.
"However, the major change since the last inquiry has been the introduction of the concept of sustainable development.
"SAMSAG will suggest that this concept is more significant than any case requiring consideration of very special circumstances based on need.
"SAMSAG also notes that sustainable development is now the core principle under-pinning planning - according to central government policy."
The Government inspector, Michael Ellison, will also consider separate proposals for another application by Shirley Estates, which intends to build on land near junction 4 (Shirley).
The inquiry is expected to last for 23 days.