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History of Fleet services

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Fleet Game Zone.jpeg
Inside the original southbound services.

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For a while, Fleet was the only services on the M3, although it had been planned to open after Trumps Green and Kempshott. This page details its history.

Site

The County Surveyors Of Hampshire's joint report suggested the M3 had services at Andwell, Windlesham and Shepperton. Windlesham is about nine miles east of here.

A review was requested after concerns were raised that the suggested services were too close together, and that review concluded Fleet should be a reserve site built between two services.

The Forestry Commission were firmly 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. The site of the services was advertised as being 39.5 acres.

Construction

Although the entrance to Fleet has been brought forward to allow for extra facilities, the core of the building remains a low, simple box-shape.

It was 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. When it opened in 1973, its simple and spacious layout was praised for being the antidote to the overcrowded and unpleasant services which had opened so far.

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, with shops added at the front.

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.

Operation

The BBC Domesday website suggests that in 1986, 60% of the services's trade happened on the westbound side.

In 1995 Welcome Break began to trial a McDonald's at Fleet northbound, and at Woodall. Following its success, Welcome Break planned to introduce McDonald's nationwide, but were stopped because they were bought by Granada who already had a deal with Burger King.

Recent Changes

The new Starbucks drive thru.

Until 2001 there was a workshop still in use next to the southbound forecourt. Coach parking on each side was turned into overflow car parking.

Fleet was one of the first services to try out Welcome Break's new look in 2006, which saw the front of the building (beginning to look tired; painted grey/orange and draped with brand names) covered with a picture of a forest. It then saw two refurbishments around 2014, painting it black and then cream, building new porches at the front, and replacing the buffet restaurant with fast food franchises. This created a large food court on the southbound 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.

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