Motorway Services Online

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Road: M25 between J27 and J28
Location: Navestock, Havering, Brentwood, Essex
Authority: London Borough of Havering
Developer: Moto
Year initiated: 2022

Moto announced a proposal to build a new motorway service area on the M25 in May 2024.

The project is slightly unusual in that it will have two separate amenity buildings, one on either side of the road, which is something that has barely ever been proposed for the last 20 years, using two plots of land that aren't quite symmetrical. The anti-clockwise side would cover Stapleford Abbotts Golf Club.

The plans suggested so far show 100 electric vehicle charging points and 400 HGV parking spaces, as well as 831 car parking spaces, 20 caravan spaces, 25 motorcycle spaces, and 40 spaces for coaches. The amenity buildings and forecourts, which will be relatively small considering the high throughput expected, will all have 'green roofs', and there will be a drive-thru coffee shop on each side.

The two sides will be connected to the roads 'Horseman Side' and 'Chequers Road' respectively, with a designated staff drop-off area and limited access permitted through the barriers.

The proposal is still in the early stages and the details are likely to change a lot. A consultation website has been created, and a full planning application is expected to follow in June 2024.

Planning Context

Motorway with 4 lanes.
The planned site of the service area, viewed from Horseman Side.

See also: M25 Planning Applications

When the M25 was built, it was suggested that eight service areas would be needed, but that only four would be built to start. Assuming some of the other proposals go ahead, this would be service area number six, and would fill one of the last obvious gaps.

This proposed site would be about 23 miles from South Mimms, and only 12 miles from Moto's own Thurrock services. Both of these sites have been plagued by access issues, and Thurrock has been particularly criticised for its architecture. The latest government policy suggests that motorways should have HGV parking available every 14 miles, and Thurrock is known to already have capacity issues.

More importantly, in the 2030s the A122 Lower Thames Crossing (which will be built like a motorway but bizarrely opening as an A-road) will cut the corner between the M25 and the M2, adding even more traffic to this area, and cutting Thurrock out the picture. The A122 was originally expected to have its own service area, but this aspect was dropped in 2020.

National Highways met with motorway service area operators in February 2022, to encourage them to build on this part of the M25. While it wasn't stated, another possible motivation for them could be the public's anxiety over the M25 J23-27 smart motorway; while the planned site isn't quite within that section, it does give motorists somewhere to check their vehicles before they enter it. Moto are the first to publicly come out with a suggestion, which may also point towards them not wanting anyone else to take a slice of Thurrock's trade. Moto have previously been unsuccessful in wanting to build in the north-west corner of the M25.

Historically, there were vague talks of building a service area near here, at Hill Hall. Two developers later tried to build one at Theydon Mount, which was thrown out in 1996.

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