Thursday, 28 February 2013

Can stylish new motorway service stations revive the UK economy?

Can funky new motorway service stations revive the economy?

The government wants to relax strict building regulations governing motorway service stations, believing that modernisation of these often-used areas could help stimulate the economy.

Britain's newest service station opened in Cobham last year and it brought boutique food and good coffee to a stretch of the M25 that previously featured nothing.

According to the BBC, the government wants more Cobhams to give more choice to the motorist.

The Department for Transport is consulting on the relaxation of the rules governing new building projects beside major roads.

The plans include lifting the restrictions that apply to the size of the shops and the abolition of the 12-mile minimum distance between service stations.

The AA believes the move will increase competition among petrol stations and therefore reduce the cost of fuel, which is higher on the motorway than anywhere else.

The government still enforces strict rules on service stations, stating that they must offer two hours of free parking, provide free toilets and open 24-hours a day for 365 days a year. Ever since their inception in the 1950s, service stations were always to be a place to refresh and refuel, not leisure attractions in their own right.

Private-sector operators find the rules difficult to work around, especially when trying to introduce more modern shops, food outlets and services.

The Cobham services battled the government for 19 years to bring a dash of luxury to the previously barren stretch of the M25 and this slight relaxation of the rules may pave the way for other, more glamorous service stations in the future

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