|Facilities | Rating | Reviews|
|Road:||M3 between J4a and J5|
MAP AND DIRECTIONS
|Telephone number:||01252 621656|
|Signposted from the road?||Yes|
|Previous operators:||Trusthouse Forte|
|Services type:||Two sites located between junctions, connected by The Scott Mills Bridge (covered footbridge).|
|Visit Fleet/Welcome Break's official website|
Built in the middle of a forest, Fleet is a popular service area on the main route between London and the South West. One of the local legends of services, it can get quite busy during holiday times and offers one of the widest ranges of fast food options around.
Catering: Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Harry Ramsden's, KFC, McDonald's, Papa John's Pizza, Starbucks, Starbucks Drive Thru, Subway, Tossed, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, West Cornwall Pasty Co. Shops: Fone Bitz, Waitrose, WHSmith Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Welcome Break Gaming, Game Zone, Changing Places, small dog walking area, picnic area, The Scott Mills Bridge Motel: Days Inn (southbound only) Forecourt: Shell (with: Autogas LPG), Select, Deli2go, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Yorkshire Tea, Air1 AdBlue
First two hours free for all vehicles, after which HGVs, caravans and coaches must pay £25, or £27 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 and History
Fleet was one of the first services to try out Welcome Break's new look in 2006. It also appears to have quite a lot of Facebook groups - I count eight, most of which are complimentary.
It's one of two Welcome Break services which have a McDonald's. In 1995 Welcome Break announced that following its success they were going to open a McDonald's at all of their services, but this process was stopped after Welcome Break was bought by Granada who already had a deal with Burger King.
The BBC Domesday website suggests that in 1986, 60% of the services' trade happened on the westbound side.
A Starbucks drive thru opened here on the northbound side on 31 July 2012 - a first for a motorway service station. The new Starbucks utilised a formerly disused forecourt building. The Starbucks was opened 24hrs, which was novel at the time.
On BBC Southern Counties Radio, Jeremy Clarkson described the "Fleet cheat" where you use the services' back exit to avoid queues on the motorway, but he was told there were now rising bollards in use, to which he suggested getting a Hummvee.
Until 2001 there was a workshop still in use next to the southbound forecourt.
On 20 January 2016, it was officially announced that the footbridge was to be renamed 'The Scott Mills Bridge' after a campaign by BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills was launched to get as many things to be named after him as possible. An official opening ceremony took place on Wednesday 16 March 2016 and a plaque has been placed on the southbound side to mark the renaming.
For quite a while Fleet was the only service area on the M3, and even today it's the only 'proper' services for south-western traffic for the next 130 miles. Fleet never appeared in any of the original plans of the M3, with many other sites being explored first. Building a service area at Fleet was only considered after the services planned either side, Trumps Green and Kempshott, had been decided on but faced difficulties. The Foresty Commission were strictly opposed to a service area here, with the Ministry of Transport trying to argue that the woodland lost would be minimal compared to what was available.
It was also one of the first to go for a more discreet building design, with a tightening budget and environmental concerns not allowing for the more striking designs that had been used so far and instead offering something with a more rural theme. It is set very low compared to other services from the time. It was one of the last services to open with a Grill & Griddle, with blue plastic seats and neatly-laid tables and Scandinavian-style chip-wood ceiling. The café had a décor of green and mauve, with large windows and a high-pitched ceiling creating a spacious environment. Today the main core of the northbound building is taken up by McDonald's, one of few Welcome Break were able to open before partnering with Burger King.
The footbridge at Fleet was built with this section of motorway, but the rest of the services weren't built for a few years, so for a while we were left with a bridge connecting two sides of wasteland.
The hotel was first applied for in 1974, but didn't materialise until the late '80s. Also in 1974, plans were put forward to but a canopy over the forecourt and extend the main building.
Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only.
In May 2012 and August 2011, Visit England rated the northbound services as 3 stars and the southbound side as 4 stars.
In 2008 the services won a five star loo award.
In 2006 and again in 2007, the toilets at the petrol station were given a three star loo award. The services themselves were rated four-star.
In 2005 the whole services won a five star loo award.
The services were inspected by the AA on the 24th and 25th of March 2007. These are their results:
|Road safety and parking:||Acceptable|
|Outdoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Access and indoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Family Friendliness:||Very Poor|
The services were said to be well signed and supervised, with a good shop and clean facilities. The biggest problem raised was the lack of disabled access. The lack of outside space and cold snacks were also highlighted.
In 1992 the services won the entire Loo of the Year competition.
In 1977 Egon Ronay rated the restaurant as "acceptable" and the café as "poor". He found the building design created a pleasant atmosphere, but it was ruined by very slow service with long queues.
A service station wrote highly about Fleet, his favourite services, in 1975, saying: "a pleasant and tranquil dignified sort of place where people rarely have to be herded like cattle and one to which you could take a planning committee to show them that a service area need not be brash and gaudy and garish, there are already signs that it may not stay this way".
|none on M3|
South Mimms (M25 north, 52 miles)
Cobham (M25 south, 23 miles)
Toddington (M1 north, 18 miles)
|Services on the M3||
Winchester (25 miles)|
Popham (A303, 18 miles)
|South Mimms (M25 north, 52 miles)||Welcome Break services||none|
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