Many services have been proposed along the eastern section of the M42 (J3a-J7), many of which took the name of Catherine-de-Barnes after the village nearest to most of them. They have all met tough opposition from local residents.
The problem is that a lot traffic joins and leaves the M42 at these two junctions, and this 'motorway hopping' creates a long gap between Warwick and Hilton Park services. To try to address the problem, Hopwood Park services opened in 1999, but they were outside the area, being at J2.
There are additional problems because the M42 has frequent junctions and the use of hard shoulder running makes the motorway complicated enough as it already is, without extra exits being created. The road is mostly within green belt land.
When the M42 was still being designed, an early decision was made to have a service area at Friday Lane, in Catherine-de-Barnes. This was dropped in 1978 after getting caught up with several controversial suburban service station proposals, and the publication of the Prior Report suggested Green Belt land should be put first. Warwickshire Council were among the objectors.
The preferred location at Friday Lane couldn't be built because it would require a planned service road to the NEC to be moved, affecting the compulsory purchase order in place at the time.
With responsibility for identifying sites for new motorway services being moved to the private sector, the M42 moved to the top of the list. Little is known about many of the proposals but it's thought that Roadchef and Welcome Break may have put applications in. Separate plans for services were put in in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 1999, including one to the north-east of J5.
By the late 1990s the plans looked like this:
- Roadchef/Blue Boar applied for the site between J5 and J6.
- Extra applied for the site at J5.
- Another developer had applied for the site at J4.
In 2001 Extra put in a plan to build a service area to the west of the M42 between J5 and J6, south of the B4102 bridge. There would have been a bridge so southbound traffic could access the services. This was rejected but went to appeal in 2009, where it was again rejected. In both cases it was rejected on environmental grounds, following a big campaign from local residents.
At the same time as the Extra plan, another developer applied to build a service area to the east of M42 J4, accessed via the A3400. This too went to appeal and was rejected because of traffic concerns. The building here would have been smaller, but the car park would have had 570 spaces.
It was presumed that when the previous two plans were rejected again, the whole thing would just drop. However, in January 2010 the Highways Agency published a document looking at the locations of services, and it suggested that building a service area on this stretch of the M42 should be the highest priority.
Meanwhile, in July 2016, Applegreen announced they were looking to take advantage of the unpopularity of the proposals by planning something much more discreet here. Their plan will be exhibited from 26 July 2016, which involves extensive highway work in the eastern corner of J4, to create a service area with a large grass roof. Highways England have requested the plan be refused due to poor highway design.
In 2017, Highways England finalised plans to make substantial changes to M42 J5. The proposed layout has been specifically designed to ensure space is left for a potential new service area.
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