Residents, environmentalists and the country’s largest motorway service area operator have questioned the need for a £57m motorway service area (MSA) the size of 110 Olympic sized swimming pools within miles of a number of similar facilities.
Roadchef’s plan to build across farm fields and a designated nature conservation site at the Catterick junction of the A1(M) has been recommended for approval by Richmondshire District Council planning officers, after more than three years of talks with the firm which claims the MSA will create 227 full-time jobs.
While the authority, which is set to decide upon the proposal on Wednesday, forecasts collecting £1.6m in business rates this year the company has stated the development alone would contribute an extra £1million annually in business rates to be spent on the district.
Key features of the expansive development would include 8,912sq metres of restaurant and cafe floorspace – a larger area than the Tesco superstore at nearby Catterick Garrison – a 100-bedroom hotel, two drive-thru cafes, a fuel filling station, HGV overnight parking and electric vehicle charging facilities.
The proposed 24-hour two-storey amenity building would include a 230sq metre farm store, a WH Smiths shop, restaurants, customer lounges and seating areas, tourist information facilities and a gaming room.
Roadchef’s blueprints indicate the building would have a planted green roof and a large external terrace cantilevered over a lake, while a concrete monolith structure would be created in another lake.
Following concerns being raised by Natural England and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust over the development’s impact on the site, which includes the designated Pallet Hill Site of Importance Nature Conservation, the nearby Swale Lakes Site of Special Scientific Interest and birds ranging from oystercatchers to lapwings, Roadchef has agreed to give the council £870,000 to create habitats elsewhere.
However, it is Roadchef’s promotion of the development as the only MSA which would meet the government’s exacting criteria in the 60 miles between Wetherby and Durham which appears to have drawn most controversy.
Rival operator Moto, which runs A1(M) Motorway Rest Areas at Scotch Corner less than five miles to the north and at Leeming Bar, about six miles to the south, as well as a truck stop at Barton, has objected to Roadchef’s plan, highlighting that two of its northern North Yorkshire sites already have planning permission for redevelopment as MSAs.
In addition, objectors have pointed to the range of services available at Exelby-Coneygarth services, off the A1(M) just five miles south of the Catterick junction and the Secretary of State having approved another MSA north of Boroughbridge earlier this year.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England is among many to have questioned the need for the Catterick MSA.
In a letter of objection, Catterick Village resident Jane Towler urged Wednesday’s planning meeting to reject the scheme “as there are already four service areas for cars and goods vehicles within approximately six miles north”.
She said: “The areas at Leeming, Middleton Tyas and Barton are quite sufficient and the excuse that hundreds of jobs will be created is rubbish as I understand that the companies there now cannot fill their current vacancies.
“All of the proposed amenities are available within the surrounding villages and towns, so will not provide any additional benefit for the local communities.”