The strange place that is Bridgwater: officially a motorway service area, but packed into Huntworth Business Park, with a tiny multi-storey car park and no grass to be found.
Catering: Burger King, Costa Coffee, Greggs, West Cornwall Pasty Co., Costa Express, Krispy Kreme Shops: M&S Simply Food, WHSmith Amenities: Travelodge, Full Hou$e, Showers Outdoor Space: Small grass area behind Greggs Charging Points: GRIDSERVE Electric Highway 50kW CCS & 50kW CHAdeMO Forecourt: BP, Shop, Costa Express
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Moto Hospitality Services
Huntworth Business Park
Trivia and History
In terms of footprint this is the smallest full service area on the motorway network. The multi-storey car park, retaining walls and in-built hotel manage to save on a lot of space, although as a result it does feel cramped.
This was the only service area First built: it was designed by Boulevard Land Ltd and taken on by First as an investment. It opened in August 1999, and it was sold to Moto in 2002. Inside had designated areas for a shop, a restaurant servery, a Burger King and the access to the hotel, and a picnic area was supposed to be at the back. Woodland was planted around the building, which has now grown very thick.
Unlike all other Moto service areas, until about 2005 Bridgwater continued to trade without any particular branding. The toilet signs inside the service area were also still in previous operator First's green and red branding until 2018.
Moto placed a sign at the entrance promising "over 250 car park spaces", suggesting this had been a cause for concern from people entering. Drivers are given a choice of "car park" and "overflow car park", with the latter being added in place of some HGV bays in 2014. Unusually, drivers who miss the car park would have to leave the site and go back to the roundabout to go again, so the second opportunity to park does prove useful.
In 2021, Which? Magazine ranked Bridgwater last of the 68 service areas it visited, strongly criticising its cleanliness and facilities. They gave it a total score of 32%, well below any of the others. Moto said they were "appalled" by the discovery, while Sedgemoor Apple reported that Bridgwater's Ian Liddell-Grainger MP has called on the service area to be closed. It was in the bottom five of Transport Focus's 2023 survey, with a still-high 88% customer satisfaction score.
See also: M5 Planning Applications
When the M5 was built, the area around North Petherton and Adsborough was searched for a suitable reserve site, which never needed to be used.
Around the time that the current service area was planned, another site in the south-west corner of J24 was planned by Welcome Break, and taken over by Granada. It would have had an entrance on the link road which looped round to the J24 roundabout. This was rejected at a public inquiry.
Meanwhile another site was proposed by Hallam Land Management on the east side of J24, accessed from Huntworth Lane. A fourth site was planned by Somerset County Council on the M5 at East Bower, a few miles north of here. Somerset County Council's plan may have sounded the most sensible, but the Highways Agency said it was too close to Sedgemoor and refused to connect it to the motorway.
One councillor later explained that the decision to build the service area where it is - which is the furthest from the M5 of all the options proposed - was due to people "kicking up a stink".
In May 2017, S Notaro Land Ltd revealed they would be seeking permission to develop land on the eastern side of M5 J24 to include a service area, petrol station, hotel, homes and offices, in a development called Junction 24 East.
The developer had suggested that they expected the new 'Junction 24 East services' to be fully signposted alongside the existing 'Bridgwater services'. Highways England had said that the proposal, as originally submitted, wouldn't qualify for signage (most likely due to issues with the abnormal load bay), but even if no signage is provided, this new service area is going to be more visible and easier to find, risking confusion.
The developer had suggested that they would be expecting official service area road signs to be provided; Highways England said that the proposal, as originally submitted, wouldn't qualify for signage, but even if that turned out to be a showstopper, the new site would be easier to find, risking confusion.
The new building has been called Notaro Park after the developer's founder. Notaro Land justified their plans by arguing there are "concerns" with the existing service area, what with it being too small and difficult to access.
Having ruled out building a direct exit from the M5 southbound, the new service area will be accessed from a link road and a roundabout to the east of M5 J24. The three-storey building has been deliberately designed to be visible from both sides of the motorway. The top floor will be a landscaped roof terrace, while the mezzanine-style middle storey will be a business lounge.
It will be a glass amenity building with terracotta façade cladding at each end. Petrol stations will be positioned to the north and the south of the building. Parking will be provided for 341 cars, 39 HGVs, 10 caravans and 8 coaches. Residents have been vociferous in their objection to the proposal, as they often are, describing it as "monstrous".
The new building will be operated by EG Group, and is designed to be the centrepiece of the new business park and attract local traffic. The developer claims it will also promote Bridgwater as a town, and be "unlike any other service station". At least 24 letters of objection were received, mostly suggesting existing service areas away from J24 be expanded instead.
Highways England have not commented on how, or even if, the 'two service stations at one junction' issue will be tackled. This problem has never arisen before, as until recently service stations were forbidden from being built too close to each other.
After several delays, the project received outline approval on 18 August 2020, which was revised in March 2022.
While some councillors were against the plan, many accepted there was an issue with the existing service area, in terms of both traffic and its reputation. Some felt that this is an opportunity to reduce that burden.
|Sedgemoor (12 miles)
|Services on the M5
|Taunton Deane (12 miles)
|Severn View (M48, 44 miles)
Leigh Delamere (M4 east, 59 miles)
|Tiverton (22 miles)
Exeter (38 miles)
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