A1 services Selby: Roadchef plan to create new service station in Yorkshire would cause 'substantial harm' to landscape

The future of a designated Green Belt area has been called into question as councillors concluded finding a place for lorries to park was more important than protecting the landscape from “substantial harm”.

A North Yorkshire Council planning meeting saw a majority of elected members agree to urge Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove to find providing parking for HGVs constitutes the “very special circumstances” to approve Roadchef’s planned motorway service area (MSA) beside the A1 at the A63 Selby Fork.

The meeting in Selby heard the 14-acre £50m development, which would include some 350 parking spaces and and 46 HGV parking spaces, over and above those required for an MSA, alongside the creation of 300 jobs, would impact on the West Yorkshire Green Belt.

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The protected area, part of which is in North Yorkshire, was set up in the 1960s to stop the encroachment of one of the country’s largest connurbations on surrounding rural areas.

The A63 and A1 junction, near where Roadchef hopes to build a £50m motorway services areaThe A63 and A1 junction, near where Roadchef hopes to build a £50m motorway services area
The A63 and A1 junction, near where Roadchef hopes to build a £50m motorway services area

Questioning Roadchef’s claim the MSA was needed, given MSAs just six miles and 15 miles away at Ferrybridge and Wetherby, officers said the MSA was inidsputably “inappropriate development in the green belt” and the proposal conflicted with safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.

However, the meeting heard claims officers had unearthed “a small piece of out-of-date guidance” to throw out a multi-million pound strategic investment.

The local elected member, Councillor Tim Grogan, told the meeting the area already featured a pig farm, a timber business, “hotels full of asylum seekers” and a gypsy site as well as a proposed quarry.

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The meeting heard claims the relatively poor quality of the green belt land made it more suitable for development.

Mr Grogan added: “I want this wasteland to be used. This isn’t an oasis of scenic beauty. Essentially it’s scrubland.”

Another local member, Councillor John McCartney, said there was a “desperate need” for HGV parking in the area.

The meeting heard claims the green belt had already been encroached upon, through the development of the A1 into a motorway, so further development to support the road was justified.

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Councillor Nigel Knapton told the meeting: “The green belt was a knee-jerk reaction following the Second World War to the development and expansion of towns and cities. It’s a very blunt piece of legislation, not a sophisticated piece of legislation in my mind and not fit for the 21st century.”

Nevertheless, the meeting was told four parishes in the area were opposed to developing on the green belt and the scheme would heighten the chances of Sherburn-in-Elmet becoming “a suburb of Leeds”.

After hearing further scepticism towards the need to protect the green belt, Councillor Andy Brown warned the conservation policy should not be discarded lightly. He added: “It is not for us to start voting on whether a piece of green belt land is good, bad or indifferent.”

Ahead of supporting the scheme, councillors were warned it stood “very limited chance of acceptance” by Mr Gove as planning inspectors had previously ruled out another MSA scheme due to Ferrybridge MSA being nearby.

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