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Birchanger Green services

Birchanger Green
Welcome Break
Facilities | Rating | ReviewsBirchanger Green services
Road:M11 at J8
(also accessible to traffic on the A120 and the B1256)

MAP AND DIRECTIONS
Address:Birchanger Green Service Station
Dunmow Road
Bishop's Stortford
Hertfordshire
CM23 5QZ
Telephone number:01279 653388
Signposted from the road?Yes
Opened:1995
Grid reference:TL512215
Services type:Single site located at a junction.
Visit Birchanger Green/Welcome Break's official website
Facebook Page
Foursquare
Twitter: @BirchangerGreen

A single service area located at a very busy junction at the exit for Stansted Airport.

Facilities

Catering: Burger King, Chopstix Noodle Bar, Harry Ramsden's, KFC, Starbucks, Subway, Tossed, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Yorkshire Tea, Starbucks Drive Thru Shops: Fone Bitz, Waitrose, WHSmith Main Amenities: Admiral Players Lounge, Ecotricity electric vehicle charging point, Game Zone, Picnic Area, Showers, Tesla Supercharger Motel: Days Innbook/Ramadabook Forecourt: Shell (with: Autogas LPG), Select, Deli2go, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Yorkshire Tea, Air1 AdBlue

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which HGVs, caravans and coaches must pay £29, or £32 to include a £9 meal voucher.

Prices can be paid in the shop with instructions in each car park. They are strictly enforced by ParkingEye.

Trivia & History

The services have a small birdwatching site. It is treated by many as an additional airport facility, as Birchanger Green offers two hours free parking compared to the steep parking charges within Stansted.

When you drive in, the petrol facilities are offered before you reach the amenity building. Normally it's the other way round, meaning these services can be confusing as the car park is the very last option you get.

There is a new rival service area just a mile away on the A120, known as Stansted services, which is actually a group of facilities aimed at airport drop-off traffic which doesn't want to use the airport amenities. Consequently, Birchanger is signed to A120 traffic as if it were a tourist attraction. Traffic joining from Stansted Business Park gets signs for both services.

Planning

The M11 was originally set to have services at Chigwell and Newport. With low traffic levels and frequently changing plans for the surrounding motorway network, it was difficult to raise enough interest for them.

Services at Birchanger (sometimes called Bishop's Stortford) were first proposed in 1980, looking at all corners of the junction. The Department for Transport hoped that choosing a busy junction in the middle of the motorway would mean they receive better quality bids to run the services, which is where Chigwell failed.

Despite Birchanger being chosen as the easy option, a long battle followed. Government policy was to compensate landowners for the value of land they were taking; in this case the site of Birchanger was being used as a field. However, the landowner had received an enquiry from Tesco about building a hypermarket there, so felt he should paid what Tesco would have paid.

Meanwhile, in the north-east corner, BAA had their eyes on the land as part of their Stansted Airport expansion. The services would have been compatible with the airport plans; indeed BAA were interested in running the services themselves, but the Department for Transport at the time did not think the roundabout could handle an expanded airport and a service area.

Trusthouse Forte said won a contract to build the services in 1986. Later that year, Mobil had an alternative plan to build the services refused. Planning permission for Forte hit further hiccups until the services opened in 1995.

During planning, the services were always called Birchanger. The 'Green' suffix was a common trick in the 1990s, to try to make services sound more homely.

This is still the only services on the M11, despite plans at Duxford. The site is 28 acres.

Design

The refurbished food court

The building is shaped as a triangle, with an airy corridor along one side and a small seating area taking up the rest of the space. The large glass front is typical of services of this age.

The food and shops appear in almost no order as units have moved around, but a large Waitrose (partly a former Red Hen) unit currently flanks the main corridor.

Although the interior of the services has been refurbished several times, the entrance doors are still in original Welcome Break blue.

Traffic Problems

Throughout the late '90s Birchanger Green's junction was heavily congested until major improvement works saw a new junction, J8a, constructed within the existing one to get traffic in and out of Stansted Airport much quicker. It is still a complicated junction, particularly for southbound traffic.

In 2010, Welcome Break complained that the new layout made it difficult for traffic to exit the services, creating long queues in the process, and offered to pay to have the majority of services traffic directed to the A120, where it could then join the roundabout with the M11. Their plans were rejected.

The problems with this junction makes it odd that the Department for Transport endorsed building services here in the 1980s. They must not have foreseen the growth of Stansted.

Brands

When it opened it had a Cafe Primo, which was the motorway network's first coffee bar. With palm trees and marble tables, it claimed to be an imitation of an Italian coffee bar. It also had a Little Chef, Julie's Express, KFC, La Baguette, and an unbranded fish and chip shop all held together next to The Granary under the name 'Granary Food Court'. For Welcome Break, this was a chance to showcase themselves as offering the best choice on the motorway at the time.

During 2006 a Sainsbury's store was trialled here, but it was removed as it only had a licence for 6 months and hadn't been much of a success. Before opening the store, Welcome Break had to do a lot of negotiating with the Highways Agency who were concerned that the store would lead to local people using the services, making it a destination in its own right. Welcome Break kept using Moto's connection with M&S as a reason for them to open up the store.

The motel at Birchanger was cheaper than Stansted's on-site one, and for that reason it was endorsed by several travel advice websites. A 77-bedroom "Days Hotel" was recently added alongside the existing 60-bedroom one as part of a £3m development. It was later re-branded to Ramada.

There are actually two large Starbucks coffee shops here, one being a former restaurant.

Tossed opened here in May 2014 - the first at a motorway service area. The same goes for Chopstix Noodle Bar, which opened in August 2016.

Survey Results

Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only.


In 2015 and May 2012 Visit England rated the services as 4 stars. In August 2011, they gave it 3 stars.

In 2008 the services won a five star loo award.

In 2006 and again in 2007, the petrol station's toilets were given a three-star loo award. The services themselves were rated four-star.

In 2005 the services won a five star loo award.

Alternatives

Previous:Next:
none on M11
South Mimms (M25 west, 29 miles)
Thurrock (M25 east, 30 miles)
Services on the M11 none on M11
Cambridge (A14, 32 miles)
none on M11
South Mimms (M25 west, 29 miles)
Welcome Break services none nearby

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