Council deal to help provide much-needed M25 service area

Eugene Moore and John Chilver

One of the country’s most advanced and environmentally friendly motorway service areas could be heading for land next to the M25 in Buckinghamshire.

Following an approach from Welcome Break, Buckinghamshire County Council has entered into a commercial arrangement for land it owns next to the M25, between the M40 and M4 junctions near Iver Heath.

Under the deal, Welcome Break would build and operate a motorway service area (MSA) and pay a rent for the land under a lengthy lease, providing the County Council with a significant, long-term and secure income stream.

The importance of a new MSA on this stretch of the M25 between the M40 and the M4 has already been confirmed by Highways England. With driver fatigue a major cause of motorway collisions, the new MSA would provide a crucial rest stop and other facilities mid-way along the 44 mile stretch between South Mimms services to the north and Cobham services to the south. This is currently the longest section of the M25 without a service area and one of the busiest for traffic.

The location for this scheme is ideally situated, providing benefits over those of competing sites. As the land is in Council ownership, this would also provide funding to benefit the county’s residents and allow the Council control to prevent any further development.

Senior Councillors are also considering whether this could provide pump prime finance for a feasibility study for a long-intended, much requested and desperately needed relief road for Iver village. And they say, if agreed, it could give the County Council a platform to bid for additional funding from other sources that, if successful, could finance its design, planning and construction.

Welcome Break is committed to a sustainable project, which would include protection of ancient woodland, significant additional tree planting around the site, low level buildings with grass roofs, plus new nature areas, walkways and bridle paths for nearby communities. More than 400 permanent jobs would also be created and there would be opportunities for the local supply chain during construction.

The County Council’s intention is to create new adjacent woodland through a substantial tree planting programme that aspires to make the project ‘carbon-negative’. The programme would also provide extra screening from the MSA particularly from the village direction and the Council would legally protect the woodland to help prevent further development.

The land sits adjacent to National Grid and Scottish and Southern Electricity’s Iver Sub Station and Welcome Break believe this makes it ideal for a new MSA with capacity for electric vehicle charging points for all future road users and sustainable refuelling of all future vehicle types.

Welcome Break will develop detailed plans for the project over the coming months. Once in place, the proposals will be presented to local communities in a public consultation before being submitted as a planning application.

Proposals are set to include an amenity building with a range of short rest and refresh areas, food and ancillary services with extensive electric vehicle charging and parking along with quick stop and overnight rest options for motorway users. The plans – and those of competing sites – will be subject to planning approval, and the application process is expected to start following public consultation.

The future Buckinghamshire Council, as the local planning authority, will be able to make a recommendation on the planning application, but as it is on Green Belt land, determination of planning consent rests with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The project supports the council’s vision for a more sustainable future, and Welcome Break is an industry leader in providing charging points for electric and low emissions vehicles.

Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Resources, John Chilver commented: “There is a real need for a motorway service area in this location and we believe this site will provide the opportunity to build a responsible, sustainable and forward-thinking facility, which would improve safety as well as create an income for the county and our residents. We also think it could give us a first step towards a much-needed relief road for Iver – something we’ve so far been unable to move forward.”

Eugene Moore, Development Director at Welcome Break said: “This land will provide a much-needed service area along a busy stretch of the M25. It’ll improve safety, give drivers a much-needed break and provide economic opportunities locally – both through job opportunities and investment in the area. We’re looking forward to sharing our proposals in the coming weeks and look forward to hearing the views of local residents and community leaders.”