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History of Clacket Lane services

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Clacket Lane atrium.jpg
The atrium, many years ago.

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Services opened 1993

The two buildings at Clacket Lane were designed to form a gateway to Kent and Surrey, who's border it sits on. The westbound side, once the first services for traffic coming up the newly-formed M20, was also a gateway to England, with a traditional English design trying to mimic a courtyard. Some of that styling was applied to the eastbound side, such as the brick wall around the building.

This is the history of Clacket Lane.

Planning and Opening

The site of Clacket Lane was chosen from around five possible junctions on the southern section of the M25. It was held as a back-up site from 1971, with Chevening being the preferred site but confirmed as being unusable in 1976.

Between J5 and J6 (known as the 'Titsey Woods' option), three individual sites were being repeatedly assessed. For ease of identification, those three were named Titsey Woods, Clacket Lane and Brasted - Clacket Lane being literally named after the adjoining the street. That option was chosen and the unusual name stuck.

The decision to change the name from Titsey Woods to Clacket Lane was to identify the three options and not, as this site has previously suggested, because there were fears 'Titsey services' wouldn't be taken seriously. In each amenity building there is a large cabinet titled 'The History of Titsey Woods', which has several Roman artefacts which were discovered whilst the services were constructed.

The Department's change from pursuing Chevening to the reserve site at Clacket Lane caused the Daily Mail to claim Clacket Lane services had been planned in secrecy. Inspired by this, objectors with concerns about the operation of the services took the proposal to the High Court. This caused a delay to many other services which were planned at the time. Indeed the site of Clacket Lane was confirmed in 1976, but it took almost 20 years to make it past all the studies and arguments.

As it was still the preferred site when the M25 was built in 1979, ghost slips were included here, and the road bridge was widened to accommodate them. However, the services took so long to open that the eventual plan ended up being much larger than before, and didn't use those slip roads. There was a debate over whether a footbridge should be provided, but it wasn't.

Roadchef spent £35m developing the services. The building looked much like the supermarket design at the time, with one newspaper calling it "a toned-down, Tesco-style bungalow". There was a burger bar called Route 25, and a sculpture in the middle of the shopping mall.

It opened on 21 July 1993.

Brand Changes

Clacket Lane services.
Looking down the corridor to the refurbished seating area.

The services was the first Roadchef site to introduce the 'Engenie Electric Car Charging Points'. These later changed to 'Ecotricity' charging points.

The filling stations here were originally ran by Elf and then Total. This then changed to Shell in early 2013 which in September 2013 changed to BP.

The Bread Kitchen was trialled here in 2012.

As with all Roadchef services, the inside used to have a long corridor design. Much of this is retained at the back, but in 2012 a McDonald's was introduced with a large seating area that crossed the main corridor, and a much smaller servery.

A Carvery Express kiosk was trialled on the eastbound side here alongside Watford Gap northbound in 2016 but both were removed in 2017.

A Spar was trialled here in 2003, and introduced again in 2016. Pret a Manger opened here on 16 March 2018.

Survey Results

Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only.

In Spring 2017, Transport Focus calculated a 92% satisfaction score for the westbound services and 79% for the eastbound services. In 2018 this had risen to 94% and 83%, and it rose again in 2019 to 96% and 85%.

In 2015, the services were rated 4 stars by VisitEngland.

In May 2012 and August 2011, VisitEngland rated the services as 3 stars.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State for Transport) said he was "very impressed" by the services when he made a surprise visit in September 2009, saying it was clean and provided a good meal.

The services were inspected by The AA on 24 and 25 March 2007. These are their results:

Road safety and parking:Good
Outdoor facilities:Acceptable
Access and indoor facilities:Acceptable
Shop:Very Good
Family Friendliness:Acceptable
Pricing:Very Poor
Final Score:Acceptable

The services were said to be well supervised with a good range of items in the shop and restaurant. The food wasn't tasty though, it had no picnic benches or indoor play area, it was very expensive and it was described as dirty, with the fold-away baby changing tables being described as "hazardous to health".

The services were also inspected by The AA on 3 and 4 April 2004. These are their results:

Road safety and parking:Good
Outdoor facilities:Acceptable
Access and indoor facilities:Good
Shop:Very Good
Communications:Very Poor
Hygiene:Very Poor
Pricing:Very Poor
Final Score:Poor

In this test, the services were said to be well prepared and tasty. Again, the variety of stock in the shop was brought up, but again the services were described as "extremely dirty". The shop was expensive and the staff were unfriendly, too.

A 1995 review in The Independent gave the services three stars.

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