Motorway Services Online

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Road: M11 between J4 and J5
Location: Chigwell, Essex
Date planned: 1969-1980, 1996-1998
Operator: Trusthouse Forte / Extra
Grid reference: TQ432943
See also: Havering-atte-Bower

Google Maps link



Chigwell services is a name that has been applied to two service areas on the M11.

Original Plan

The original and best-known plan has a story behind it.

The M11, like many other motorways, was meant to head much further into London then it actually does - some ten miles in this case. The story of Chigwell services is a fairly simple one: had the road been built to its full length then these services would have been needed, but as the bottom end of it was never built, they're not. The unbuilt extension also explains why the M11 'starts' at J4, a junction with a large gap in the middle of it.

It's all part of the London Ringways, a plan which is covered in great detail over on CBRD.

In 1971 the plans for the services went to a public inquiry as they were very controversial, with the MP for Chigwell saying it would "ruin the amenities of a beautiful place". It passed and preparation works were completed.

Even the Ministry knew the services would be quiet, as they suggested it should only have a petrol station and café, and requested it had single-storey buildings only. It would have one of the first services to sell only one type of fuel. The site is 36 acres.

Under the false understanding that the M11 would be completed, in 1972 and again twice in 1976, operators were invited to bid to run the services. The 1972 bid received no replies, the 1976 one received one reply from Trusthouse Forte who went on to win the contract. However, reflecting on the likely success of the services and their own financial position at the time, Forte pulled out soon after winning and the services went to tender again, this time receiving no replies.

Further services were planned at Harlow and Newport. Birchanger Green, which is mid-way between these two places, opened in 1988 and is the M11's only services. Once this opened, Chigwell was seemingly cancelled permanently.

Until 1996, the Highways Agency still owned the land.


Planners at this site were inspired by Aust, and considered building a similar site here at M11 J5.

Site Layout

Within the services, the ground is lower than the motorway surrounding it, with a subway connecting the two sides. The services would have looked very similar to Burtonwood, also close to the end of a motorway. After the plans were dropped the site was turned into a police control depot and an emergency turn-around point for authorised vehicles, to do this a narrow overbridge with a 28 tonne weight limit was erected, as despite the space for connections to the local road network being available, they were never built.

Current Use

In 2009 the southbound site was ear-marked by the Olympic delivery authority as a temporary, off site logistics facility to manage all inbound construction traffic into the more congested London site. The 33,000m² site was designed to provide security screening, scheduling and vehicle marshalling facilities of all inbound goods, controlling deliveries in real time in line with the site’s requirements. PJ Carey Construction, part of the Carey Group Plc, were awarded the contract to construct the project. The site was run by DHL until the Olympic 'Games period' had finished in December 2012. There was the option available to DHL that after the Olympic use it may be used as a commercial venture, however as of December 2012 the site is being put back to it's original pre-2009 condition of 'green land' and the subway which had been in-filled has been dug out once more. The Road Haulage Association have suggested it becomes a truckstop and are campaigning to see this happen.

They are also considering turning the northbound side in to a park and ride unit.

The address of the compound is still referred to as "Chigwell Motorway Service Area".

Swayfields Plan

In 1996, Extra put in a planning application to build a full service area (including motel) to the south-east of M11 J5. This went to appeal, but was withdrawn in 1998.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding this plan: the first is why, and the second is what they'd have done about the layout of M11 J5 not currently allowing you to join and leave in the same direction.

The issue of "why" is more perplexing than it may seem - while the M11 has had a problem with a lack of services, most of the issue is much further north than here, where Birchanger Green already exists.