M55 could finally get a motorway service area as part of new plans
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However, that could all be set to change after it emerged that plans are in the pipeline to build the motorway’s first ever service area just off the new junction 2, where the M55 meets the recently-opened Preston Western Distributor Road.
If approved, the facility would also be the first such motorway outlet in the vicinity of Preston. The nearest alternative to the north is almost 15 miles away on the M6 near Lancaster, while southbound M6 traffic would have nearly 18 miles to travel to get to Charnock Richard services in Chorley.
The new service station would be constructed over the course of around 18 months on what is currently an agricultural field to the north east of the recently-constructed junction, which opened in early July. The development would be accessed from a second roundabout that would be created close to the one that links the M55 and the distributor road - now officially known as Edith Rigby Way - which runs through to the A583 at Riversway and Blackpool Road.
According to documents submitted to Preston City Council on behalf of the proposed operator, Moto, the services would revolve around a main “amenity building” – providing hot and cold food and drink, indoor and outdoor seating, toilets and baby changing facilities.
Outlets offering what are described as “top-up grocery provisions” and “roadside-appropriate” convenience items would also be on offer. The planned petrol station - with a reserved area for HGVs - would also include a retail unit.
There would be parking for around 360 cars, with additional dedicated spaces for caravans, motorbikes and coaches, as well as a separate HGV parking area.
Open space and grassland “for dog walkers and visitors to stretch their legs” is also promised on the 6.8-hectare plot, along with landscaped areas around the edge of the site which could include opportunities for increasing existing levels of biodiversity.
The proposal notes that there are currently no motorway service areas on the M55, adding that Moto “have identified that there is a need for such provision in this location”.
In 1998, longstanding plans for a service area at junction 3 of the M55 at Kirkham were refused in appeal to a planning inspector because of what would have been a loss of agricultural land and the lack of proven need for the facility.
A petrol station and Starbucks has already been built on Edith Rigby Way itself, at its junction with the new William Young Way. However, that much smaller development - on land previously occupied by the Saddle Inn pub - is yet to open.
A planning application has not yet been submitted to the city council for the junction 2 development, but details of the proposal have been sent to the authority in order for it to assess whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) would be required for any such application in future.
Preston-based consultancy PWA Planning submitted the request for a so-called “screening opinion”, in which it argued that “there do not appear to be any overwhelming reasons...why an EIA would be required" in this instance.
Preston City Council agreed, stating in a notice outlining their decision that the development of the open countryside site “would not give rise to significant environmental impacts by virtue of its size, scale, or operation”.
The authority added: “The site is currently part of an agricultural field and the proposed development would have a visual impact on the character of the area; however, the nature of the existing built development, being close to a motorway, and [the] proposed landscaping would limit the impact.”