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Unbuilt Services On The M1

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M1 motorway signs.
The stub where the exit for Long Whatton should have been, now surrounded by signs.

For a list of current service areas on the M1, see Services on the M1.

The M1 opened in November 1959, and was Britain's first significant section of motorway. Of particular interest to this website is that its opening included Britain's first motorway services, and the history of how they were designed at the very last moment is described in The Original Five.

Suffice to say that the Ministry of Transport decided that motorway services would be built by a compulsory purchase order, and it identified five services that it wanted to be built on the main section between today's J5 and J18.

Only Newport Pagnell and Watford were opened with the motorway. Redbourn was hit by objections from local residents and totally abandoned as a proposal, while Rothersthorpe and Toddington had their land compulsory purchased and would be built as soon as they were needed.

At Rothersthorpe and Toddington, small service roads and a footbridge was provided. The land was excavated and they would be built as soon as they were needed, which happened in 1964 and 1978 respectively.

M1 Extensions

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The M1 has been extended with several projects, which mostly took place in the 1960s and 1970s.

The following services were developed as proposals at roughly 15 mile intervals: Junction numbers refer to the situation upon opening.

The section of M1 between Sheffield and Leeds was a slightly later addition to the plan, and picked up from Woodall services, giving us:

  • SA36: Finally, Chapeltown (J35-36)
  • SA37: Woolley Edge (J38-39)

Of these plans, Leicester Forest East, Trowell, Woodall and Woolley Edge were developed to open with the road. There were a few delays, and as the road headed further north it became clear that traffic levels were getting lower and interest from operators was declining.

Like with the original section, the plan was that every-other site would be held in reserve. Its land would still be purchased and cleared, and the construction of the road would include ghost slips that allow new exits to be easily added. Many of these reserve sites were used to hold maintenance compounds.

Other than the Toddington and Rothersthorpe examples detailed above, none of the reserve sites were ever used as intended. This may be because many service stations took a surprisingly long time to break even, which meant the Ministry wanted to give the existing facilities a fair chance, and they also knew it meant operators would be very reluctant to agree to any new contracts.

There was also the benefit of hindsight, because these newer sites were marginally larger than the original services. This meant they took longer to reach full capacity, and were even more expensive to build from scratch.

Unfulfilled Plans

On every existing service area page, we list the alternative locations that were examined (where known). These sites can all be matched up with the map above.

For Toddington, the alternatives were especially interesting. When it came to building Toddington, it was clear that the site available was too small for one service area, yet Toddington was expected to do the job of itself and Redbourn.

As a result, an urgent second review of alternative sites was held, as is detailed on the Toddington page.

The Unused Sites

Field near motorway.
The field where Long Whatton services should have been built.

Other than Redbourn which had been dropped early on, three services from the original plan were never built:

Lutterworth (J19-20; SA17) was built with long access roads, and a connection to the local road network. It is a classic of the genre, as it has a full exit from the motorway with signs saying "works unit only", which curious minds will realise normally means something odd is going on.

It was decided that the works unit would have to be removed if it was ever built, as the site was too small - it is only 10.5 acres in size.

In 1983 the Department of Transport held a consultation with a view to bringing the Lutterworth reserve site into use, but this didn't happen. In 1995 they confirmed that they were looking to sell the land. Instead, two large motorway maintenance compounds have been developed here, on land all owned by Highways England.

Long Whatton (J23-24; SA19) had only the bare minimum built. Its location faced objections from local residents and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The land for the services was never bought, as it would have been compulsory purchased when required.

The motorway here is built on an embankment, which meant a tunnel would have been needed if the two sides of the service area were to be connected. There was some concern over this as only bridges had been used until then, but an underpass was described as a "welcome variation" which would stop all services looking the same. It was assumed the underpass would be built with the motorway to save construction costs, but it didn't happen - concerns about other services being limited by existing bridges was given as the reason.

There had been plans to build a works unit at Long Whatton, but this didn't happen. There was also talk about using the land here to form the start of the M64 motorway to Derby.

In the event nothing was ever built at Long Whatton, but Donington Park services was soon built nearby.

Chapeltown (J35-36; SA36) was always at the bottom of the list - it had been hard enough to get anybody to build Woolley Edge, which is only just up the road. The land was never purchased or prepared, but four ghost slips were built.

In the 1970s there were plans to use this site to form the end of the M67 motorway. Two of the half-built slip roads were later used to build the new M1 J35a instead.

Private Proposals

Misterton field.
The field by M1 J20 where Hallam Land Management planned a service area.

Since 1992, developers have been solely responsible for coming up with their own proposals for new motorway services. This led to an increase in proposals, but they are normally clustered around the same area and most are quickly ruled out.

Some of the new motorway services once planned for the M1 we have uncovered include:

Place Location Proposed Resolved Outcome Notes
Donington J23a (north-east corner) 1989 2011 Approved, then encountered many legal issues. Small site planned by East Midlands Airport.
Sherwood Parc J28-29 1994 1997 Withdrawn. Unable to secure Traffic Signs Agreement.
Tibshelf J28-29 1994 1999 Built. Near reserve site. Planned by Welcome Break, South East Oil Co. and Roadchef/Extra.
Redbourn J8-9 (north-west of Gaddesden Lane) 1996 1996 Refused on appeal. Planned by Hallam Land Management. West of the motorway, with an underpass and a loop providing access to both sides. Was refused because it's green belt land, and would add to congestion on the M1. Objections were made by Granada, Extra, Redbourn Together.
Hesley Bar J35 (south-east corner) 1996 2001 Refused on appeal. Planned by Roadchef. Refused because it's green belt land, and no proven need.
Redbourn J9 (north-east corner) 1997 1999 Refused. Planned by Extra. Refused because it's green belt land.
Lutterworth J20 (south-east corner) 1997 2000 Refused on appeal. Planned by Hallam Land Management. Refused because there was no proven need.
Leeds Skelton Lake J45 (south-west corner) 1995 2020 Built.
Donington J23a (south-west corner) 1997? 1999 Built. Planned by Hallam Land Management.
Sheffield (Smithy Wood) J35 (south-west corner) 2014 2020 Withdrawn. Planned by Extra. An unusual two-storey plan. Strong local opposition because of the loss of woodland.
Rotherham Gateway J33 (west side) 2017 ongoing Approved. Planned by Applegreen, passed to Welcome Break.

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