HL Deb 31 July 1998 vol 592 c259WA
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy on the spacing of motorway service areas. [HL3151]

Lord Whitty

Motorway service areas (MSAs) exist to meet a road safety need by giving drivers somewhere to stop and rest. It is nevertheless important to strike a balance between the needs of motorists and the protection of the countryside from unnecessary development.

Policy on MSAs was last set out by the previous Administration in Annex A to PPG13 and Roads Circular 1/94. In summary, MSAs were to be not more than around 30 miles apart and, to increase competition and choice, could be provided as frequently as about every 15 miles.

Some six years after its introduction, there is little evidence of new operators entering the MSA sector. We are, however, concerned that additional MSA provision has been at the expense of other considerations, particularly in areas of planning restraint. We therefore intend to return to a policy based on the provision of MSAs approximately every 30 miles in order to provide drivers with adequate opportunities to stop and rest. Services at closer intervals will not be ruled out completely but we will in future expect to approve them only where there are exceptional need and safety grounds for doing so.

We are today issuing detailed guidance on this and a number of related MSA matters. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This new advice will take effect immediately and we will expect developers, planners and others to take account of it when considering proposals for new MSAs. Where it differs from previous statements of policy, the new guidance should be regarded as taking precedence. It will be incorporated in a consolidated circular on MSA policy in due course.