Between 1965 and 1967 the Bartlett School of Architecture were asked to compare British services with European ones. The aim was not just to comment on how well Britain's new buildings were bedding in, but to try to establish why so many operators were unhappy with what they had built.
Led by Bev Nutt, Department Director of the Joint Unit for Planning Research at University College London, the review concluded that many motorway service areas had taken on an impractical design, which was designed to cater for customers who were having to hang around when all they wanted to do was get back on the road quickly. British service area buildings were often vulnerable to vandalism and theft, because this hadn't been anticipated in their design. Poor design meant that catering and daily maintenance were becoming major ordeals when they didn't need to be.
The study also looked at the location of service areas on different sides of the road, and suggested that service areas in urban areas would receive more trade. While most of their comments were considered and quite forward-looking, that last point seemed to be a mistake.
The School recommended a new "policy of least commitment" going forward, where operators would design buildings that were simple and easy to operate, rather than promising a five star service that they were unable to fulfil. The School's service area research group later provided advice during the Prior Report.
One member of the panel remarked in 1974 that none of their main recommendations from the report had been adopted.
Details of each of their reviews, where available, are listed on the service area page, but the summaries are quite telling:
|Frankley||"magnificent" location, "stark and poor" buildings|
|Gordano||"too many portacabins"|
|Heston||"disastrous, cramped, desolate, harsh"|
|Leigh Delamere||"most excellent"|
|Membury||"very noisy, exposed"|
|Toddington||"a tarmac wasteland, appalling"|
|Watford Gap||"lacking any design quality, showing no environmental concern"|