PLANS have been unveiled for a new motorway service area on the edge of Rotherham — just days before a controversial application to build a different scheme in an ancient woodland go before planners.
Applegreen plc has announced details of a proposed new motorway service area at junction 33 of the M1 at Catcliffe and intends to present the project as a planning application later this year.
The company said its proposal would create some 300 new jobs for surrounding communities and make good use of a vacant site on either side of the M1, which already has planning permission for two hotels and a petrol filling station.
But details of the plans emerged barely a fortnight before Sheffield City Council will consider MSA Extra’s bid to build its own service area at Smithy Wood, just over the M1 from Thorpe Hesley.
Protesters are appealing to nature lovers to attend a peaceful demonstration outside Sheffield Town Hall tomorrow (Saturday) at 11.30am and lobby their local councillor to oppose the plans, which will be discussed by councillors on March 28.
MSA Extra said its development — including a fast food court, 80-bed hotel and car park — would “satisfy a road safety need along one of the UK’s busiest stretches of motorway”, create 400 jobs and involve the development of 600 acres of new and existing woodlands with a network of footpaths.
But campaigners say the development will destroy a much-loved walking spot which provides a home for nature.
Outlining Applegreen’s plans this week, chief development director Eugene Moore said:
“We are committed to creating new jobs for local people to boost local economies. Alongside that, we hope that there will be opportunities for increased business for local traders.
“Minimising our impact on the environment and the landscape is a priority for us and we will deliver this through great design.
“Our approach is to use new best practices to create service areas that are both welcoming, offer value and do not cause issues for our neighbours.”
The Applegreen scheme locates HGV parking and amenities to the north of the M1 with customer parking and amenities for other motorway users to the south of the M1, via an underpass.
Road improvements will increase traffic capacity on the existing junction 33 roundabout and as such there will be minimal traffic impact for local road users, the company said.
Consultation events on the plans are being held on Monday, March 20, and Tuesday, March 21, at The Thirsty Flame in Whitehill Lane, Brinsworth, from 3.30pm till 7.30pm.
More information about the project and the consultation events can be found at www.applegreenrotherham.info.
Meanwhile, campaigners are preparing their placards for their demo outside Sheffield Town Hall against the Smithy Wood plans tomorrow.
MSA Extra have insisted the new service area would improve safely as there was currently an unsafe distance between services on the M1.
But Liz Ballard, chief executive of wildlife trust, said: “We call on the planning committee councillors to see this application for what it is — an opportunist proposal that will bring significant profits to a few instead of a fantastic public green space for the many.
“Smithy Wood is over 800 years old and part of a unique network of ancient woodlands.
“While we still question whether there is a need for an MSA on this stretch of motorway at all, if that case is proven, then the junction 33 proposal demonstrates that Smithy Wood can be avoided.”
MSE Extra has previously said it is “confident there are no alternative sites which are suitable and/or deliverable”.