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Vale of York services

Vale of York
Road:A1(M) between J48 and J49

(open map)
Signposted from the road?It will be
Previous names:Kirby Hill
Services type:Single site located at a junction

⚠️ Please note that this service area is not yet open.

On 13 April 2021, Welcome Break's parent company were granted planning permission to build a motorway service area at Kirby Hill. Archaeological work began in April 2023, with a final application currently resting with North Yorkshire Council. It's likely to open as Vale of York services.

It's the second of two service areas which have been proposed here in the last 25 years. Arguments over the proposal have become one of the most memorable features of the A1(M) through Yorkshire, which is a rare example of a motorway built since service area planning was privatised.

Both proposals have been vociferously opposed by the Residents Against Motorway Services (RAMS), who will maintain their opposition.

Trivia and Design

Vale of York site layout.
The planned road and site layout.

The approved plan was put forward by Applegreen in 2017.

They proposed an amenity building at the south of the site, which would be connected to the A1(M) by two roundabouts and a flyover, allowing access in both directions. The A168 would be diverted onto a new course to the east to steer clear of the new junction.

The masterplan name-checked Gloucester services as its inspiration. The main building would have a landscaped entrance plaza, tall walls and a large grass roof which would extend over the forecourt and slope down to the ground, much like its famous inspiration but with a much more noticeable façade.

An additional drive thru coffee shop, positioned closer to the motorway, would have its own green roof which would extend over the car park, and it would have its own picnic area too, almost becoming a service area in itself.

Inside, the amenity building would be broadly similar to other large Applegreen service areas, with a single building that acts as both a forecourt shop and a catering building. There would be large windows along the front, with two shop units, and then space for four fast food units along the back, plus a game arcade, and toilets behind them. There would also be an escalator leading up to a mezzanine level, with seating and space for more concessions, and an outdoor play area.

Parking would be provided for approximately 364 cars, 90 HGVs, 20 motorcycles, 18 coaches and 13 caravans. A staff drop-off and controlled access point would be provided on the B6265. The HGV forecourt would be operated remotely, again in keeping with Applegreen's Irish projects, but once again this one would have a large green roof. No detail on charging points has been provided, but you can expect a large number to be added as the plans progress.

If built, the Vale of York service area will end a long monopoly held by Moto for service areas in the north east.

Planning History

See also: A1(M) Planning Applications

The A1(M) through North Yorkshire is one of the only major motorways to open since the planning of new motorway services was passed from the government to the developers in 1992. This part was opened in 1995, but the new road wasn't really joined up until 2012.

This has revealed significant difficulty. It is up to the planning process to decide between rival service area proposals, and this moves slowly. As a result, the A1(M) through North Yorkshire has seen numerous plans for new services, and several lengthy public inquiries.

Heather Ive Associates

Heather Ive Associates made their first planning application in October 1996, calling it Kirby Hill services. A second application was made in February 1997. As with many developers, had Heather Ive been successful, they would have been likely to sell the site to a well-known operator.

Heather Ive appealed both outcomes, as they weren't determined in time. In October 1998, a public inquiry considered these two appeals (though the first was soon withdrawn), alongside other planned services at Allerton, Arkendale and Wetherby.

In March 1999, the Secretary of State awarded planning permission to the Kirby Hill plan only. This decision was challenged by Harrogate Borough Council and later quashed. The inquiry was reopened in 2001, studying Kirby Hill and Wetherby, alongside Skelton Grange, Bramham Crossroads, Wetherby and Flaxby Covert. This concluded in 2005 with planning permission being awarded to Wetherby.

In 2008, Heather Ive Associates planned to build Kirby Hill again. Harrogate Borough Council argued that there was no need for the service area, and that it would cause "demonstrable harm". They refused the application, and Heather Ive appealed. A public inquiry in 2011 described the "visual harm" and "adverse affect" on the landscape; it also referenced the local opposition and the time it would take to build, before rejecting the scheme in favour of Leeming Bar.

Applegreen Emergence

The planned site of the service area, to the distance on the right.

In 2016, it had been reported that the Irish forecourt operator Applegreen wanted to break in to the British motorway market. They registered a number of planning applications, including another one for the same site at Kirby Hill, now called 'Vale of York'.

In 2019, Applegreen broke in to the UK market by acquiring existing operator Welcome Break. As part of the takeover agreement, Welcome Break would become responsible for most new projects and Applegreen's largest sites. The Vale of york proposal was considered to be good territory for Welcome Break, and continued.

The proposal initially showed a looped arrangement for the northbound slip roads, which attempted to match the field boundary. This was later revised to use more standard, straight slip roads, probably so that abnormal loads could stop on them. The abnormal load bay has now been moved.

Planning officers recommended it be approved, but Harrogate Borough Council's Planning Committee unanimously voted it down. The reasons they gave for their decision were that the scheme was contrary to the Local Plan; it represented an unjustified encroachment into the open countryside; it was not sustainable development and it would harm the local environment and the economy of the nearby market town of Boroughbridge.

Latest Inquiry

Applegreen appealed the decision, and another public inquiry was held in February 2021. This time, it was considered alongside an appeal from Moto, relating to a nearby site at Ripon, at A1(M) J50. The Yorkshire Post took an editorial position against the Kirby Hill plan.

In April 2021, the planning inspector approved the Kirby Hill appeal, and refused the Ripon appeal. He acknowledged that both proposals had considerable negative factors, especially the loss of agricultural land, however he concluded that it met a "demonstrable need" for a new motorway service area that outweighed the disadvantages.

Opponents will ask why the 2021 inquiry reached a different conclusion to previous inquiries, when many of the key arguments remain the same. The most likely answer isn't unique to Kirby Hill: since the previous inquiry was held in 2011, the government's position has changed to become more in favour of roadside development. In addition, the A1(M)'s main service area at Wetherby has now had time to bed in, as has the new A1(M) itself. On other hand, during that period the environmental arguments have also become more pertinent.

Following the inquiry, Harrogate Borough Council were accused of having "massaged" their landscape report, but their investigation found no irregularities.

A new planning application was approved in September 2023. The changes won't affect the customer experience, but it did reignite the anger surrounding the project. Ironically, in policy terms, the new government policy published in December 2022, which calls for motorways to have HGV parking every 14 miles, makes a stronger case for the facility than in the previous application, although this change didn't receive much attention. That change also impacts other finer details of the project.

Kirby Hill RAMS have signalled they would launch a judicial review into the latest approval of planning permission, on the basis that it was an "unlawful decision, irrational decision, procedural impropriety and unfair decision".


Wetherby (13 miles)Services on the A1(M)Leeming Bar rest area (15 miles)
Durham (47 miles)
Woodall (M1 south, 63 miles)
Hartshead Moor (M62 west, 46 miles)
Welcome Break servicesnone nearby

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