History of Woolley Edge services
In the 1960s motorway services had proven to be a big hit with operators and the public, but Woolley Edge was the first sign that things were going to change.
Design and Contract
The formulas required that a service area be built here, but the traffic levels were forecast to be low. Woolley Edge was the most suitable site available, but it still had unstable coal seams running beneath it and a tunnel ventilation shaft to contend with.
As a result, no footbridge would be permitted between the two facilities, claiming it would be too difficult to build. Applicants were told the services wouldn't be connected to the local road network because it would be too difficult. These factors made the site even less attractive.
In 1966, interested developers were invited to submit their applications to build Woolley Edge, but nobody replied. As a result, in 1967 the site was split in to two contracts, northbound and southbound, and applicants were controversially allowed to sell only one brand of fuel and to use temporary buildings for the first 10 years.
A minimum spend of £90,000 per side was requested. It was suggested a snack building be built, possibly with its own entrance, as many people here would want snacks only. Due to the complications with the land, a suggested layout was provided.
Shell were rumoured to be interested but didn't bid.
Blue Boar bid to run the southbound services only. Their financial offer was poor, their building design and catering arrangements were "well conceived" but the layout differed so vastly from the advice given that they were eventually ruled out.
They would have provided a two-storey amenity building with the restaurant on top, with toilets, a shop and the kitchen underneath. The entrance would have been at mezzanine level. Seating would have been provided for 308 people.
A self-service transport café would have been provided.
Taverna submitted bids for the north- and the southbound services. Their financial offer for the southbound side was excellent, however this was dependent on their not-as-good offer for the northbound side being approved. Taverna appeared to share other operators' views that the southbound side would be more profitable.
For each side, there were vending machines and an AA kiosk at the entrance. Inside took you to a large foyer. Against the wall on the left were vending machines and toilets, with toilets and the shop at the back. The main café would have joined the foyer.
The amenity building was light because of the issues with the structure. It was designed by Challen, Floyd & Partners. The walls were grey brick with cedar shingles covering the roof, described by inspectors as "undesirable".
The dining area was criticised for its poor view, and the building was described as "self-conscious" and "fussy". Taverna had promised to trial more experimental automated catering arrangements here, furnished with hardwood seating with plastic tables.
On the northbound side, a separate entrance to the transport café was provided at the back, while the southbound side used two separate buildings. The transport café would have had walls covered with ceramic tiles.
Seating would have been provided for 702 people, with 84 toilets, 465 car parking spaces, 109 lorry bays and 12 coach bays. Space was left at the back of each amenity building for an extension.
Opening and Operation
Inspectors were concerned about Taverna's strategic bid, as they reckoned the northbound side was worth more than they were offering it. However, realising that delaying the services may not yield any better results, they accepted their bid for both sides of the services, subject to the building being reconsidered.
The services were the first to go for a more rural design that could not be seen from the road, a theme which was continued inside.
The roof of the building was changed to extend to the ground, which was described as "spectacular" when it opened. This was created on the basis that the building would need to stand out during snowdrifts. The timber cladding design is supposed to look discreet and enclosed, but it was described as too assertive for such an attractive site.
A temporary connection to the local road network which had been used to build the motorway was adopted to become a Rear Access.
When Granada took over, they painted the building bright red and white.
Under Granada, the services continued to suffer from low traffic levels, which made providing satisfactory facilities difficult. In 1974 they admitted the site was a disappointment, and blamed it on traffic heading towards Newcastle being directed off the M1 at J32.
In 2000, the southbound services were identified as having the potential to benefit from a significant investment, providing one of Granada's new-look shopping areas. This saw a short corridor added to the front of the amenity building, causing it to clearly stick out from the otherwise rectangular building.
Since then, additional facilities, especially the arrival of M&S Simply Food in 2007, have brought additional trade to the services.