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Unbuilt Services On The M20 and M26

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For a list of current service areas on the M20, see Services on the M20.

While at its heart the M20 may be a 1960s motorway, with the Maidstone Bypass being one of the UK's oldest sections of motorway, in reality it still had a large gap in it until 1991.

With facilities available on the old A20 that linked the M20 together, there wasn't much need for any service areas - but the planning was there.

Service Station Planning

The M20's service stations all revolved around Detling. A service area planned at Honeyhills Woods, on the original Maidstone Bypass section, was pencilled in as early as 1962. With the motorway already open there was no need purchase the land until it was ready to start work.

By 1972 a fuller strategy had emerged. There would be:

  • a service area near Stanford (Folkestone), probably to be held in reserve until needed.
  • a large service area at Detling (J7-8), to be built soon. This would sometimes be referred to as "near Maidstone".
  • a large service area at Chevening on the M25, to be built soon.

For reasons that are unclear, the service area planning usually measured along what's now the M26, rather than following the actual course of the M20. One document from 1977 confirmed that the northernmost section of M20 would include a service area at West Kingsdown (also called Brands Hatch) between J1 and J2.

This decision may have been delayed by confusion about the route of the M25. Until 1976, the motorway which meets the M20 at J1 would have been called the M16, and it was likely to have its own service area named Pedham Place at that junction. Mobil then proposed to build it, which was debated from 1977 until 1985. The Pedham Place option was totally ruled out during the M25 consultation, largely because the roundabout would be too congested.

The road that is now the M26 - originally supposed to be part of the M25 - was going to have its own service area at Chevening.

Why It Didn't Happen

The Detling site initially received an objection from the Landscape Advisory Committee. This was resolved and it was expected to go to tender in 1974, with an opening in 1977. There is no record of it having been opened to bids, which would suggest it was delayed. This would fit with reports that an alternative option at Hollingbourne was being considered.

In 1977, it was said that the most likely site was Hollingbourne, with an alternative at Honeyhills Woods being discussed. Kent County Council signalled their preference for one smaller service area at Hollingbourne. As well as being smaller, and less likely to cause problems with it being too close to the junction, it also saved destroying any woodland. The plan was backed up by the Prior Report of 1978, which encouraged service areas to be built at junctions.

In 1986 the "M20 policy" was announced, which confirmed that Hollingbourne would be built. It eventually opened in 1998 as Maidstone services, replacing the Detling option.

In the 1990s, M20 J7 was replaced by a new junction to the east. This would have moved it far too close to the service area, had Detling been built.

At the same time as the M20 policy was published, there was an attempt to purchase the land at Stanford. Progress was delayed by the fallout from the High Court case over Clacket Lane, which had criticised the Department's procedures. It was opened to bids in 1992, but no suitable replies were received. It was eventually built privately and would go on to be described as a "commercial failure".

Meanwhile at West Kingsdown, the Department of Transport applied for planning permission for a 40 acre site in 1985. It was later mentioned that Esso and Heron were involved in the plan, and it could be one of England's first private initiative sites. Another proposal was associated with Allied London Properties, who submitted it privately via the planning system. A public inquiry was held in 1986. When service area planning was privatised in 1992, West Kingsdown didn't get mentioned as an ongoing project. It has since been proposed several times.

Private Proposals

Motorway service area model.
A model of the planned 1986 Pedham Place services.

Since 1992, developers have been solely responsible for coming up with their own proposals for new motorway services. This led to an increase in proposals, but they are normally clustered around the same area and most are quickly ruled out.

Some of the new motorway services once planned for the M20 and M26 we have uncovered include:

Place Location Proposed Resolved Outcome Notes
Pedham Place M20 J1 (south-east corner) 1979 1986 Refused. Planned by Mobil. Refused at public inquiry due to it not fitting in with the M25's service area planning.
West Kingsdown M20 J1-2 (Crowhurst Lane) 1985 1997 Refused. Planned by Allied London Properties Plc.
Pedham Place M20 J1 (south-east corner) 1994 1997 Refused. Planned by Lawlor Land Plc.
Brands Hatch M20 J1-2 (Scratchers Lane) 1995 1997 Refused. Planned by Extra. Refused because it's green belt land. Had an overpass to allow access in both directions.
Folkestone (Westenhanger) M20 J11 (south-west corner) 1992 2008 Built. Taken over from DfT. Planned by Three Kings Developments Ltd, B D A Partnership Ltd, Christiani & Nielsen Ltd, Stanford MSA Ltd, Hamilton Associates Architects Ltd and Henry Boot Developments Ltd.
Wrotham M26 J2A (north-west corner) 2021 2022 Refused. Truckstop planned by Moto for the M26. Refused because it's green belt land and AONB.

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In addition to these, several service areas have been proposed on the A20 Swanley Bypass.