Colne Valley services
⚠️ Please note that this service area is not yet open.
Colne Valley is an unusual project resulting from a partnership between Welcome Break and Buckinghamshire County Council, where the operator would lease the land from the council. It was approved in September 2023, despite considerable local outrage.
Access will be provided from a new, dedicated interchange on the M25. This will involve a dual carriageway flyover, which will be attached to Slough Road, replacing the existing bridge. To make this work, the developer had offered to widen the M25 between the new junction and the nearby M40 to a six lane 'smart motorway', which would make it the widest length of road without a hard shoulder in the UK. The building of roads like this is currently forbidden until at least 2025, possibly for longer.
Trivia and Design
The new flyover will land at a small roundabout on the western side. This roundabout will also provide access to and from the M25 northbound, via two slip roads with very sharp bends.
A single entry road will then branch off, separating cars from HGVs. An access road will run around the back, providing access to the parking for HGVs, coaches and caravans. These roads will then regroup before the roundabout, where a fuel filling station and drive thru coffee shop will be available.
The proposed amenity building will have a 'sawtooth' roof with solar panels along it. A long, grass canopy will run along the front. Next to the amenity building will be a large plaza, as well as a dog walking area.
In total 941 car parking spaces will be provided, including at least 100 electric vehicle charging points, making it the largest provision on the motorway. 150 HGV parking spaces will be provided. These figures are both very close to the minimum requirements, which call for 939 car parking spaces and 142 HGV parking spaces. There will also be 20 pumps for cars in the filling station, and 5 for HGVs.
Around 500 jobs are expected to be created, and construction is expected to take around 16 months. The council added that a large tree planting programme should make the project "carbon negative", and that the woodland around the site boundary will be protected from development. It will be by far Welcome Break's largest and busiest site, and with those environmental credentials, probably a dramatically different experience to any of their other properties.
Emergency vehicles will be able to use a dedicated access from Slough Road, but staff will only be able to use it when walking or cycling. The emergency access will allow the 'secret exit' further down the M25 at Palmers Moor Lane to be closed.
See also: M25 Planning Applications
The M25 through here has a long history of failed service area proposals, generally dating back to before the road was built. These included the Department of Transport's original insistence that a service area be built at Iver, and more recent private proposals at Elk Meadows and Woodlands Park - only a few hundred metres from this site.
More recently, there have been four service areas proposed near here. Alongside Colne Valley was Moto's Kings Langley and two variations of Extra's Chiltern Chalfont. All of these have faced their own objections and issues.
At Colne Valley, the potential partnership was announced in February 2020, with the formal planning application being made in December. At this time, the road layout was considerably different.
Two roundabouts would have been provided, one handling all the traffic entering the service area, and one handling all the traffic leaving. This would have been made possible with longer slip roads and a supplementary flyover - a very rare feature in a private development - as the slip roads all untangled. A constrained area between the two roundabouts would have contained the car filling station, a drive thru coffee shop, and a drive thru restaurant.
The car park would have been larger, with almost 1,100 parking spaces, and 200 for HGVs. While the main building would have been similar, it would have had a hotel attached to it. Unusually, the HGV parking area would have included its own dedicated amenity building, with a gym and other facilities.
A thorough rethink of the internal layout in June 2021 saw it scaled back a little, creating something that is still very large, but slightly more in keeping with other service areas on major motorways. No official reason was given for the change, other than that the revised plan increases the distance from the M40 and comes closer to the minimum specification. That last point is likely to be key, as the outcome of this planning application will ultimately come down to whether inspectors believe that the harm that it does can be justified.
The revised Colne Valley and second Chiltern Chalfont option went head-to-head at a planning meeting in September 2023, which was only going to decide that one development in the green belt could be justified. Colne Valley was believed to be favoured, and it was decided that it would be the least damaging of the two. This came in spite of concern from residents that the area is becoming saturated.
While planning permission does bring the project a step closer, this is a very long-running saga, and its battle with outraged residents and rival operators unlikely to be over. Unsurprisingly and perhaps understandably, Ivers Parish Council has hit out at the decision, and suggested councillors could never reach a fair conclusion when the same council stands to benefit from the scheme.
|South Mimms (24 miles)|
Beaconsfield (M40 north, 7 miles)
Toddington (M1 north, 33 miles)
London Gateway (M1 south, 22 miles)
Bourne End (A41 north, 19 miles)
|Services on the M25||Cobham (20 miles)|
Reading (M4 west, 30 miles)
Heston (M4 east, 8 miles)
Fleet (M3 west, 27 miles)
Wisley (A3 south, 20 miles)
|South Mimms (24 miles)|
Oxford (M40 north, 31 miles)
Newport Pagnell (M1 north, 48 miles)
London Gateway (M1 south, 22 miles)
|Welcome Break services||Fleet (M3 west, 27 miles)|
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