Roadchef services in North Yorkshire recommended for approval by planners

A controversial plan to build a motorway service area the size of 110 Olympic swimming pools across pasture land has been recommended for approval by planners, despite concerns it would have a significant impact on a designated site of special scientific interest.

Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee will on Wednesday hear motorway services operator Roadchef has offered to pay almost £2 million to create habitats elsewhere to compensate for its proposed 11.2-hectare development off junction 52 of the A1(M).

The firm wants to construct buildings featuring some 8,912 square metres of restaurant and cafe floorspace, alongside a 100-bedroom hotel, and in a first for a motorway service area, two drive-thru buildings for a coffee shop and fast food restaurant, as well a fuel filling station with convenience shop.

The firm has claimed during its operation, the proposed development, the cost of which has previously been estimated at £57 million, was expected create 227 direct full-time equivalent jobs.

Roadchef wants to build new series in North Yorkshire

The proposed 24-hour services would also include HGV overnight parking and electric vehicle charging facilities.

If the motorway service area was built, the council has suggested it would look to close its lorry park in nearby Colburn, following years of complaints from residents about antisocial behaviour there.

Both the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England have raised concerns about the potential significant effects on fauna and flora in the area, such as curlew, and in particular on the nearby Swale Lakes Site of Special Scientific Interest.

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To fully compensate for the loss of habitat, developers have agreed to pay almost £2 million to bolster ecosystems elsewhere.

Objectors, including other motorway services firms, have questioned the need for another fuel station and food outlets in the area, particularly following consent being granted to develop a services area near Boroughbridge and plans being lodged to upgrade services at nearby Scotch Corner.

However, the council’s planning officers have concluded a services area is needed at the junction to serve road users of the A1(M) between Durham and the approved services at the Vale of York.

In a report to the committee, they wrote: “Considerable weight can be given in such instances to meeting this need because of the safety of users of the strategic road network. There is not considered to be another proposal or site that would realistically be able to meet this need.

“The impact on nature conservation is a significant material consideration in the assessment of the application and therefore significant compensatory measures have been sought to address the impact. In this case the impact of the development would cause an adverse impact.

“The proposed development would provide new jobs and would benefit the local economy of Richmondshire without any unacceptable impacts on town centres and their vitality and viability."