History of Frankley services
Two very different buildings, but one old service area. This page details Frankley's history.
See also: M5 Service Area Planning
During the planning process the service area was actually known as "Quinton Frankley". The contractor as Higgs and Hill.
The southbound services has a very odd design, with a restaurant and toilets on the first floor. It's one of very few services to have a full second story, which backs out over the exit road. This appears to be an attempt to give an optimum view over the levels to the west (with all the store rooms being to the east).
The northbound side keeps out the way with a much more typical low-level design. The northbound access road then drops below the height of that building, allowing a good view from the northbound restaurant.
The original design requirement was for a single-storey, "unobtrusive" building on each side. Granada's two-storey southbound side was later accepted as the best option, but great concern was raised over the tall gas-burning chimney on the northbound side, with planners eventually accepting it was the best place to put it. In their usual fashion, Granada frustrated the Ministry by making frequent changes to their plans.
It was the first service area without a public footbridge, although £15,000 was later set aside to build one. Granada were keen to build it, but were disheartened when the Ministry of Transport showed no interest in paying for it. In their early plans, Granada had looked at running a tunnel between the two sides.
The lack of the footbridge was a request from the Ministry of Transport when looking for operators of the services here. They knew the slope would be difficult to build on and wanted a different facility on each side of the motorway to account for this. They were willing to lease each side to a different operator but this did not happen. In 1969 Granada received permission to build one, but didn't use it.
Granada wanted a motel on each side of the road from opening, but at the time this was ruled out as unacceptable.
Both sides of the services originally included overflow space which has proven useful for expansion. What is now the southbound motel was zoned as a possible overflow lorry park. The northbound sliproad on to the motorway was originally much longer.
Neither of the two amenity buildings were initially accessible without climbing steps: northbound had one step by the entrance while southbound had five steps by the entrance and 25 to get to the restaurant. This was changed in 1976. A "mother and baby" room was provided from opening.
Highway Services division, 1966.
After being built, Granada were reluctant to open the services as the M5 wasn't yet finished, and the majority of traffic was being diverted off at the previous junction. Eventually the northbound side opened first in 1966, and attracted considerable local interest: residents would cut through the back roads to access the services.
Three-and-a-half years later it still wasn't opening 24 hours a day, with Granada (who had earned a reputation for being difficult) claiming trade was too low. What success it did have was attributed to the building being so far away from Granada's head office that management couldn't intervene.
In 1971 the service area was one of few making a considerable (£50,000) annual profit. A 1975 review described the site of the services as "magnificent", but felt it was ruined by "stark and poor" buildings. Internal alterations had blocked the view to the west.
The amenity building was only open 8am-11pm, while the shop was open 7am-8pm and sold cigarettes, confectionery, maps, magazines, newspapers, books, records, cassettes, toys, pens, sunglasses, batteries, tissues, toothpaste, sanitary towels, medicine, cold drinks, ice cream and biscuits.
At the entrance were ash trays, pay phones, a posting box, stamp machine and weighing machine. A pin ball arcade led off the marble entrance hall. The menu was advertised prominently by the self-service restaurant which was spacious and well-lit. Commercial drivers had a separate seating area. Food on display included salads and cakes while milk, tea, coffee and cola were dispensed from a machine. Fuel was available from BP, Esso, National and Shell.
Granada initially used the large floor areas to provide a grill restaurant, but this closed and its equipment was moved to Heston. They instead moved their focus to "superior snack catering", aimed mainly at coach passengers.
The new, more basic, café had black and red bench seats, yellow tables and a spacious serving area tiled in red and white.
Part of the car park was leased to a pallet business which traded until the 1990s. A reopening was held on 10 April 1992 after a thorough refurbishment, though it's not entirely clear what this involved.
In November 2015, the service area was evacuated following a fire on the northbound side. It was able to reopen later the same day.
The southbound restaurant, being tucked out of the way, has always struggled to attract custom. In 1999 Granada wanted to turn it into a business lounge, aiming to copy the lounges found at airports. This didn't happen but the downstairs coffee lounge, and the snacks sold in the shops, continued to cast a shadow over the restaurant. Normally the restaurant would simply be reduced in size, but given its awkward position, there was nothing to replace it with. Eventually, in 2014, the southbound restaurant was closed and its furnishings were slowly removed. It is now just a sorry shell that people walk past on their way to the toilets.
On the northbound side, Granada's shops were closed. In 2017, a refurbishment replaced the restaurant with a new Costa unit, making space for a large M&S by the entrance. This, along with the existing Greggs helped liven up what was becoming a tired site.
In 2021, Which? Magazine ranked Frankley 45th out of the 68 service areas they visited.
In Spring 2018, Transport Focus calculated a 99% satisfaction score for the northbound services and 91% for the southbound services. By 2019 this had fallen to 90% and 75% respectively, placing it among England's worst four services.
In 2015 and in May 2012, VisitEngland rated the southbound services as 4 stars and northbound as 3. In August 2011, they gave them both 3 stars.
In late 2006 Frankley starred on the BBC's 'The Money Programme', which described it as 'terrible'. At 2pm it had ran out of food.
In 2006 Frankley was also noted for having the best toilets at any UK motorway service area.
Also in 2006, the service area was rated 3/5 by Holiday Which?
In 2005 the service area won a five star loo award.
The service area was inspected by The AA on 4 and 5 April 2004. These are their results:
|Road safety and parking:||Good|
|Outdoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Access and indoor facilities:||Acceptable|
The self-service restaurant, range of goods in the shop and staff were all good, but the building was old, dirty, had few external facilities and had a long wait for a poor range of unappetising meals.
In 1991, a Which? survey rated the services as "average".
In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as "acceptable", describing it as "clean and attractive" but offering a poor selection of food.
In 1975, the service area was reviewed by the Birmingham Consumer, who described it as bright and well-lit. The majority of the facilities were very clean, except the toilets.
In 1972, Egon Ronay gave the services a rating of "appalling".