The local community will be given the chance to vote on the appearance of a landmark HS2 viaduct near Solihull as part of the high-speed line’s commitment to inclusive design.

Further design options for the appearance and patterning of Balsall Common Viaduct’s acoustic parapets, and the landscape around the structure, will be presented to the local community at two events in January. This further engagement follows approval of the Schedule 17 application for the Balsall Common Viaduct in September 2023 by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

The viaduct is designed to sit within the surrounding landscape, and the five parapet options are designed to make the viaduct either more prominent through the use of bold colours, or less prominent by using polished concrete to reflect the sky and surroundings.

The structure is being built by HS2’s main works contractor, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), supported by a Design Joint Venture of Mott MacDonald and SYSTRA together with architects Weston Williamson + Partners.

Nick McGough, Director at Weston Williamson + Partners, and Lead Architect for the Balfour Beatty VINCI Design Joint Venture, said:

“We have responded to the feedback from the Local Planning Committee and developed new design options which create either a bolder, more prominent viaduct in the landscape, or reduce its prominence, effectively making it more subdued. This is achieved with different treatments to the acoustic parapets which can significantly change the character of the structure. We now look forward to hearing people’s feedback on the colour, finish and patterning of the viaduct’s parapets, along with options about different types of planting in the areas around the structure.”

The options include a plain concrete parapet, a red, green or highly polished parapet with full length patterning, or a polished parapet with a pattern only over Station Road. There are also four options for the parapet pattern itself. These reference local history and include a weave motif to represent the history of textile production in the area, a tree motif to represent the Forest of Arden, a brick motif referencing local brickmaking and a ram’s horn motif to represent the history of livestock farming at nearby Ram’s Hall.

The innovative polished concrete parapet option is designed to allow the colour of the sky, different lighting conditions and taller local vegetation to be reflected back to the viewer. Samples and videos of this option will be available for the community to access during the consultation period.

The design includes a landscape scheme that complements the viaduct structure, helping to integrate it with existing features in its setting. The scheme retains the existing semi-open landscape character through careful placement of screening woodland for visual purposes. The scheme also aims to increase biodiversity through planting, seeding and introducing more water habitat.

Christoph Brintrup, HS2’s Head of Landscape said:

“Over the last two years we have refined the landscape design for the Balsall Common Viaduct using feedback from residents, businesses and community groups. This has resulted in increased landscape integration, visual connectivity and public access being incorporated in the final design stages.”

People are being asked to provide feedback on three landscape design options which focus on either conserving the landscape character, planting additional woodland or creating a marshland concept.

The proposal for additional woodland planting is on the Balsall Common side of the viaduct, with more trees and shrubs around the fishing lakes to provide more screening of the viaduct. On the Berkswell side, the design builds on the network of well-maintained hedgerows with mature oak trees and strengthens the vegetation alongside Baileys Brook, also providing an additional filter to views.

The marshland concept would create a new area of wetland for plants and wildlife, increasing the biodiversity of the area. With soft ground, pools, long grasses and reeds, this option makes it difficult to approach the structure, helping prevent any potential graffiti. A series of causeways through the area would give residents access to this new habitat area, which could also be used for educational purposes.

BBV have started constructing the 16 piers which will carry the 425 metre-long viaduct up to 10 metres above ground, crossing over Station Road, Bayleys Brook, the Heart of England Way Walk and the local floodplain. Construction refinements have reduced the size of each pier by as much as 17% for single piers and 28% for double piers, giving the structure a lighter appearance.

Community events:

  • Thursday 18 January 2024 – 12:00noon – 5:30pm at Balsall Common Village Hall (Station Road, 112, Balsall Common, CV7 7FF)
  • Thursday 18 January 2024 – 5:30pm -7:30pm at Balsall Common Methodist Church (Station Rd, CV7 7EE)
  • Thursday 25 January 2024 – 12.00noon – 5:30pm at Berkswell & Balsall Common Sports Association (The Lant Rec Ground Meeting House Lane, Coventry CV7 7GE)
  • Thursday 25 January 2024 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm at Balsall Common Methodist Church (Station Rd, CV7 7EE)