A proposal to build an expansive motorway services area across a wildlife haven has been unanimously approved by councillors who concluded it was urgently needed due to nearby facilities being at full capacity.
The Roadchef scheme on an 11-hectare former quarry site off junction 52 of the A1(M) includes 8,912sq metres of restaurant and cafe floorspace, a 100-bedroom hotel, Costa and McDonalds drive-thru cafes, a fuel filling station and HGV overnight parking.
Roadchef director Ian Mackay told a meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee the area would cost more than £50 million to develop and employ more than 300 people.
The firm has said it would pay almost £2m to create wildlife habitats elsewhere to compensate for the impact on fauna and flora in the area, such as curlew, and in particular on the nearby SSSI at Swale Lakes.
To compensate for the loss of wetland habitat and other ecological damage the firm has agreed to extend a wildlife haven 17 km away at Nosterfield, near Masham, which planning officers said they had been assured would happen “sooner rather than later”.
Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for rival firm Moto said while its recently submitted plans to upgrade its service areas at Barton and Scotch Corner would be on previously developed brownfield land, Roadchef’s plan would harm biodiversity.
The meeting heard Moto had threatened launching judicial review action should the committee approve the Roadchef scheme.
They emphasised the development was only being considered because service areas off the adjoining A1(M) junctions 51 and 53 had not met some criteria to be officially called a motorway services area.
Planning officers underlined that the proposal met many of the government’s criteria for motorway service areas, which the Department for Transport had said should be available every 28 miles on motorways.
They said the scheme had been amended to avoid the Catarctonium Roman scheduled monument and a study had found the impact of the development on the viability of nearby town centres would be insignificant.
He called for a full geophysical survey before building work was started. Coun Rowe said: “We can’t keep destroying the history as we have in the past.”
However, Councillor Ian Threlfall said facilities at the services, such as shops and a post office, would be welcomed by many Catterick village residents.
Dismissing concerns over the need for the development, Coun Threlfall : “This is probably as well sited as any between Durham and Wetherby as any we have heard.”