Rival operator objects to M1 services scheme

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Operators of Woodall services on the M1 have joined the list of objectors to a proposed motorway service area near Chapeltown.

The Welcome Break group, which runs 24 motorway operations, says there is no clear need for the proposed £20m development off junction 35 - and no exceptional circumstances to justify it being in the green belt.

Environment and community groups, residents and MPs are opposing the Extra Motorway Service Area Group’s plans, mainly because of the loss of part of ancient woodland at Smithy Wood.

Extra says the J35 services would meet a need for services between Woolley Edge and Woodall on M1 and it points to the predicted economic benefits of its scheme, including a food court and shops, an 80-bedroom hotel and filling station. An estimated 300 jobs would be created.

To compensate for the loss of trees, new woodland would be planted, and private woodland opened to the public.

But the project has resulted in widespread opposition being registered with the council.

Now Welcome Break has joined the fray. It is telling the council although commercial competition is not a planning consideration, it is important that wider implications are taken into account when judging whether there are special circumstances to support changes to the green belt.

Junction 35 is less than 28 miles between Woolley Edge and Woodall - and there is no “compelling” evidence of a drive time that would justify another motorway service area, it is argued.

There is the “probability” that the development, with a “substantial” amount of shops floorspace, would become a destination in its own right, diverting business from established shopping centres. “While the positive economic benefits of the development are presented, the analysis is not balanced by any consideration of the potential negative impacts, either on the surrounding area or on the other motorways services on the network.”

On the environmental implications, Welcome Break add: “The circumstances ... are not sufficiently special to warrant such an intrusion into the green belt.”

No council decision is likely until next month at the earliest.