Motorway Services Online

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Road: M55 at J2
Location: Lower Bartle, Woodplumpton, Preston, Lancashire
Authority: Preston City Council
References: 06/2023/0937
Developer: Moto
Year initiated: 2023
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Moto began a project in April 2023, where they are seeking to build a full motorway service area at the brand new M55 J2. The junction didn't open until July 2023, as part of a road project that opened up swathes of new land for development. It would be the first service area to open on the M55, which Moto says would fill an important gap.

The facility would be accessed from a new roundabout, which would be built to the north of the two roundabouts just built. This would allow access to the farm to be maintained, with a single carriageway spine road heading into the service area. England's national highway authority has concerns about the farm access, and they also argue that the new motorway roundabout will need to be widened.

With the M55 being a relatively lightly-trafficked road, this would be one of their smaller service areas. Early sketches show that parking for 361 cars, 63 HGVs, 10 caravans and 6 coaches would be provided, along with electric vehicle charging points and a fuel filling station. Parking spaces would be wider than usual to allow for future electric vehicle provision.

Even so, in line with the new government policy, it would need to fulfil all the requirements expected of a motorway service area. In the past, this would have meant building a large restaurant which would make the project uneconomic, but these days a small coffee shop is likely to suffice.

The proposal is still in the early stages and the details are likely to change a lot. In April 2024, it was revealed that the scope of the project had almost doubled, to allow for better access, drainage and biodiversity projects.

One omission from the current proposal that sticks out is the lack of the usual drive thru coffee shop, especially considering this is the junction of two commuter routes. It also doesn't yet have a name: the junction is called 'Becconsall Bridge', the nearest village has the amusing name 'Woodplumpton', and although Moto are most likely to use the generic name 'Preston', there is something catchy about 'Preston North Western'.

Planning Context

As early as 1960, the government was looking at building a motorway service area at the M6/M55 interchange, north-east of Preston. This proved to be too difficult and was abandoned as an idea.

Hallam Land Management proposed giving the M55 a 'Kirkham services' in 1995. It was refused planning permission as it struggled to be justified under the planning policies at the time.

The government's new (December 2022) motorway service area policy calls for all motorways to have HGV parking every 14 miles, and although this was probably written with busier motorways in mind, this technicality may well be crucial to this proposal's planning process.

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