Abbey Barns was listed as a potential site for a motorway service area when the first section of the M40 opened.
The services went to tender in 1973, but no replies were received, so the idea was put on hold. The contract allowed it to be developed as one site or two, and they expected at least £700,000 to be invested in it. A footbridge would have been provided, as would a connection to the local road network.
At 24 acres the site is quite small, even by the standards at the time.
Policy at the time was not to build services on short motorways, and with the M40 originally finishing at Wheatley, this was given a reason to postpone it indefinitely.
In the 1970s, two large lay-bys with toilets and payphones were built on the new A40 Wheatley Bypass. For most traffic this would have been the first place to stop after leaving the motorway, and the facilities are still there today.
After the plans were postponed, further environmental concerns were raised which made building the services more unlikely.
Shell tried to guarantee themselves the contract when it was put to tender by buying the land and getting planning permission for a service area. This strategy did not work.
Documentation makes brief references to a "High Wycombe services" opening in 1980, but notes that no exact location had been chosen at the time.
The completion of the M40 created a few problems because it created a 210 mile motorway route with no services along it. Abbey Barns wasn't seriously suggested as a solution to this, but a nearby site at Tetsworth near J6 was, also on the original section of the road.
After this was rejected another site was considered at Oxford at J8a, this eventually opened in 1998, but it still left the southern end of the M40 without services.
The controversial Beaconsfield services opened in 2009, finally closing a gap in services that was created 40 years before.