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History of Frankley services

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Frankley 1978.jpg
The front of the services in 1978.

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Two very different buildings, but one old service area. This page details Frankley's history.

Planning

The services under construction.

During the planning process the services were actually known as "Quinton Frankley".

The M5 was originally going to have services at Newland Common, but the distance from Corley meant the plans for Frankley had to be accelerated.

Design

The northbound building designed to offer a view by towering over the south side

The southbound services has a very odd design, with a restaurant and toilets on the first floor. It's one of very few services to have a full second story, and it backs out over the exit road. This appears to be an attempt to give an optimum view over the levels to the west (with all the facilities being to the east), with the northbound side keeping out the way with a much more typical low-level design. The northbound access road then dropped below the height of the building, allowing a good view from the northbound restaurant.

The original design requirement was for a single-storey, "unobtrusive" building on each side. Granada's two-storey southbound side was later accepted as the best, but great concern was raised over the tall gas-burning chimney on the northbound side, with planners eventually accepting it was the best place to put it. Granada frustrated the Ministry by making frequent changes to their plans.

It was the first service area without a public footbridge, although £15,000 was later set aside to build one. Granada were keen to build it, but were disheartened when the Ministry of Transport showed no interest in paying for it. In their early plans, Granada had looked at running a tunnel between the two sides.

The lack of the footbridge was a request from the Ministry of Transport when looking for operators of the services here. They knew the slope would be difficult to build on and wanted a different facility on each side of the motorway to account for this. They were willing to lease each side to a different operator but this did not happen.

Granada wanted a motel on each side of the road from opening, but at the time this was ruled out as unacceptable.

Both sides of the services originally included overflow space which has proven useful for expansion. What is now the southbound motel was zoned as a possible overflow lorry park. The northbound sliproad onto the motorway was originally much longer.

Neither of the two amenity buildings were initially accessible without climbing steps: northbound had one step by the entrance while southbound had five steps by the entrance and 25 to get to the restaurant. This was changed in 1976. A "mother and baby" room was provided from opening.

Opening

"The Granada attitude, though well in line with what we realise of their attitude to life, is quite indefensible."
Highway Services division, 1966.

After being built, Granada were reluctant to open the services as the M5 wasn't yet finished, and the majority of traffic was being diverted off at the previous junction. Eventually the northbound side opened first in 1966, and attracted considerable local interest: residents would cut through the back roads to access the services.

Three-and-a-half years later it still wasn't opening 24 hours a day, with Granada (who had earned a reputation for being difficult) claiming trade was too low. What success it did have was attributed to the building being so far from Granada's management.

In 1971 the services were one of few making a considerable (£50,000) annual profit. A 1975 review described the site of the services as "magnificent", but felt it was ruined by "stark and poor" buildings. Internal alterations had blocked the view to the west. The amenity building was only open 8am-11pm, while the shop was open 7am-8pm and sold cigarettes, confectionery, maps, magazines, newspapers, books, records, cassettes, toys, pens, sunglasses, batteries, tissues, toothpaste, sanitary towels, medicine, cold drinks, ice cream and biscuits.

At the entrance were ash trays, pay phones, a posting box, stamp machine and weighing machine. A pin ball arcade led off the marble entrance hall. The menu was advertised prominently by the self-service restaurant which was spacious and well-lit. Commercial drivers had a separate seating area. Food on display included salads and cakes while milk, tea, coffee and cola were dispensed from a machine. Fuel was available from BP, Esso, National and Shell.

Catering

Granada initially used the large floor areas to provide a grill restaurant, but this closed and its equipment was moved to Heston. They instead moved their focus to "superior snack catering", aimed mainly at coach passengers.

The new, more basic, café had black and red bench seats, yellow tables and a spacious serving area tiled in red and white.

Recent History

Closed units on the northbound side

In recent years, Moto have been closing some of the older parts of the services. This process started with Granada's 1990s retail areas, and continued to the southbound restaurant. Greggs and M&S make modern additions.

In November 2015, the services were evacuated following a fire on the northbound side. It was able to reopen later the same day.

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