There are no services on the M25 between Cobham and South Mimms

A planning inspector has refused permission for a proposed motorway services area in the north-west quadrant of the M25, and suggested that a rival plan is no better, but expressed a clear preference for a third scheme.

Inspector Mark Dakeyne was hearing a planning appeal by Extra MSA Group into refusal of planning permission for a motorway service area (MSA) on land between junctions 16 and 17 of the M25, near Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.

The outline proposal was for a £160m scheme comprising a facilities building, fuel filling station, electric vehicle charging, up to 100 bedroom hotel and parking, which would have created 340 full-time equivalent jobs.

In his report he said there was a clear need for an MSA between the M1 and M4 junctions of the M25 because of the distance between existing MSAs, with no MSAs on the western section of the M25 between South Mimms (junction with the A1) and Cobham (near the A3).

However, in making his decision, he explained he was required to consider whether there were other similar schemes that would be more beneficial, so he also took into account proposed schemes by Moto just off junction 20 of the M25, and by CVMSA between junctions 15 and 16 at Iver Heath.

The Moto scheme, which it was claimed would have created 200 jobs, has also been refused planning permission, but no appeal or further application has been made. In his verdict he said: “The Moto site has similar drawbacks to the appeal site in overall terms, and when taking into account the disadvantage of being an off-line site and the questions over delivery, it performs worse. Therefore, Moto would not, based on what is before me, provide a persuasive alternative site.”

A planning application for the CVMSA scheme is currently being considered by Buckinghamshire Council and it is claimed it would create 300 jobs. In his verdict the inspector said the CVMSA scheme would provide similar benefits to the Extra MSA one, but with appreciably less harm, and therefore was a feasible alternative.

In the conclusion to his report the inspector wrote: “I am mindful that, in principle, the need for an MSA in the north-west quadrant of the M25 is a benefit that should be attributed substantial weight, and along with other benefits, is capable of outweighing even a substantial amount of Green Belt and other harm. However, there is a reasonable likelihood that these benefits can be achieved in a less harmful way by an alternative site.”