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Four-Way Fight to Develop Motorway Service Area

motorwayIn a striking example of the heated competition that sometimes accompanies major building projects, four developers who were all intent on building a new motorway service area on the same stretch of the A1(M) in North Yorkshire locked horns at the High Court – but only one of them emerged a winner.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government triggered a storm of protest from rival developers when he filled a 27-mile ‘gap’ in services provision on the motorway between Wetherby and Barton by granting planning permission for the expansion of Motel Leeming Services, in Bedale, which has been open since 1961.

Although all agreed that there was only room for one major service area on that part of the A1(M), three developers who had promoted alternative schemes mounted a judicial review challenge, insisting that the Secretary of State’s decision was fatally flawed. Heather Ive Associates wanted to build a double-sided service station near Kirby Hall; Jaytee (Rainton) LLP wished to develop a site near Harrogate, and Refined Estates Limited favoured a site at Baldersby Gate.

Although all three were rivals, insisting that their proposals were the best, they joined together in a legal fight to overturn the grant of planning consent. However, after a costly hearing stretching over four days, the Court dismissed all of their complaints about the decision, which was taken after two exhaustive local planning inquiries.

The trio’s arguments, including that the decision was ‘inconsistent or irrational’, that the Secretary of State had not followed his own planning guidelines and that he had failed to give ‘adequate or intelligible’ reasons for concluding as he did, each fell on fallow ground.

Harrogate and Hambleton Councils were also parties to the sprawling dispute and North Yorkshire County Council was joined as an interested party as local highway authority. The Court noted that motorway services giant Moto Hospitality Limited had ‘agreed heads of terms’ to buy Leeming Motel Services with a view to bringing the development to fruition.