Redbourn was the original motorway service area - but it was never built. This means it is probably the motorway network's longest-running planning dispute.
Service Area Number 1
Full details: The Original Five
When the M1 was being designed, five potential motorway services were identified, with Redbourn being the southernmost of them all and numbered first in all the paperwork. It was also the most popular site when potential operators were consulted.
Objections from local residents meant the Ministry were unable to purchase the land at Redbourn. With the motorway about to open, they couldn't become entangled in a planning dispute, so had to continue with services at Watford Gap, Newport Pagnell and an disappointing gap at the southern end. At the time, operators were told Redbourn was not being pursued but could be planned again if necessary.
With those two services heavily overcrowded, Redbourn again couldn't step up to the mark quick enough, so the back-up site at Toddington was built instead, even though Toddington was too far north. Pepperstock, and many other locations, were looked at too.
When the M1 was extended from J5 to today's J1, the issue of the lack of services at the southern end was brought up again, and again Redbourn was overlooked, this time in favour of Scratchwood.
As traffic levels have picked up, the emergency/temporary solutions reached have proven to be insufficient. When private firms were allowed to propose their own developments privately, this became a lucrative location.
A service station was proposed here in 1996 by Hallam Land Management. It was refused because the land is green belt, too close to M1 J8, too close to the M1 itself (at the time widening the road from three lanes to four lanes was only being discussed, and wouldn't be possible as the services' plans stood), too close to a settlement and interrupted too many rights of way.
The decision was appealed in 1997. The developer's argument was that the nearest service station to the south-west was almost 70 miles away, while services to the north were operating at full capacity. However, the appeal was rejected as more items of local history which would be impacted by the site had been highlighted.
As is characteristic for their services, Extra wanted to build a service area at J9 of the M1, in the north-east quadrant. The plans were made in 1997, appealed in 1999 and were rejected because the junction would have needed a large-scale upgrade. There is also a small service area here.