Scheme to be giant version of Westmorland Family’s outpost in Cumbria

Michael Gove has been asked to make a final decision on controversial plans by Howells to create a supersized version of Cumbria’s famous Tebay service station on a greenfield site in Cheshire.

Tatton Services would be built between junctions seven and eight of the M56 motorway near Altrincham, south west of Manchester and will be three times the size of its northern sister station on the M6.

Tebay Services, which is owned by motorway services firm Westmorland Family, has gained a cult following for motorists driving to and from Scotland due to its dramatic rural setting and its farm shop selling a vast array of artisanal food.

The station has won a string of awards since it first opened in 1972, most recently being named among the top three service stations in Britain in a Which? survey with Westmorland Family’s other sites in Gloucester and Cairn Lodge, Scotland.

The firm’s proposals for Tatton Services, located roughly halfway between the Tebay and Gloucester stations, were granted approval by Cheshire East Council’s planning committee at the end of last month.

But the consent included a condition that it should be referred to the secretary of state for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for final sign off due to the scale of the scheme and its location on green belt land.

Plans for the 16ha site include a 6,300 sq m shop building, a 100-bedroom hotel, a 1,000 sq m fuel station, electric vehicle charging stations and a refurbishment of an existing early 19th century farmhouse.

The scheme’s location has provoked considerable opposition from local residents, groups and organisations including a primary school and two parish councils.

The application received more than 150 letters of objection flagging the potential loss of ancient woodland, loss of wildlife, additional traffic and the lack of need for another service station on the M56.

The council also received a letter from local MP and Conservative Party chairman Graham Brady highlighting concerns raised by his constituents over the scheme’s impact on existing local businesses and doubts over whether it justified the loss of green belt land.

The council’s planning officer had recommended the scheme for approval despite admitting that it represented “inappropriate” development on the green belt which “reduces openness and encroaches into the countryside”.

But the officer added that these impacts were “clearly outweighed” by the need for the service station and its economic benefits.

The plans have been developed by a joint venture between Westmorland Family and developer Pegasus Group, with the project team including lead architect Howells, landscape architect Planit IE and MEP, sustainability and energy consultant Ramboll.

Westmorland Family chair Sarah Dunning, who received an OBE in 2013 for her services to the food, drink and hospitality sectors, said Tatton Services will “celebrate Cheshire and all that it has to offer”.

“The services will create quality jobs and support local producers and communities alongside meeting the growing needs of electric car drivers,” she said.

“We are grateful for the engagement and support received from local councillors, businesses, residents, and the local community and look forward to bringing our unique model of motorway services to the M56.”