The Herts village united in fighting new M25 service station

The Hertfordshire village of Kings Langley is one of the best in the county.

It has many great things including a bustling high street, great local businesses and is perfectly placed just off of the M25.

It being so close to the motorway has been something which has benefited residents for years and makes the area an attractive option for home buyers.

But in recent years, the M25 has brought plenty of stress to residents after a proposal was submitted for a new motorway service station near J20.

Moto Hospitality submitted the application in 2019 and ever since it has caused a massive stir amongst locals.

If accepted, the plans will see the green belt area just off J20 on the M25 redeveloped into a multi-million-pound project.

The extravagant plans include an amenity building full of a number of popular shops, the creation of a new two-lane roundabout, an 80-bedroom lodge, a fuel filling station and more.

It is estimated that the MSA will invest £80million into the local economy whilst also creating up to 200 jobs for locals.

A CGI of what the station will look like
A CGI of what the station will look like
(Image: Moto Hospitality)

Despite all the apparent benefits of the proposal, many residents have opposed the idea ever since it was first discussed in 2015.

To put it into context, an application in the Three Rivers district has never received more objections with more than 1,200 residents making their voices heard.

Not only that but residents have petitioned and campaigned against it every step of the way.

Traffic congestion, loss of green belt land and an increase in pollution levels are all just some of the residents’ main concerns.

Ultimately they don’t want the best thing about the village gone and they claim that is it’s true village feel.

It’s no secret that where the station would be built, the increase in traffic through the village would be massive and this is just one of many reasons why residents are against it.

Moto, however, believes the station is ‘important’ and will boost investment into the area.

A statement from Moto Hospitality reads: “We believe our proposed service area will provide an important and much-needed rest stop for drivers and their passengers on what is one of the country’s busiest − and frequently congested− motorways.

“Our plans will bring 200 full-time jobs to the area and represent an £80 million investment in the local economy.

“The provision of 94 dedicated HGV parking spaces will also go a long way towards solving the problem of big commercial vehicles parking on the roadside close to Junction 20.”

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But what do residents think?

One of the leading and most powerful objections comes from a school a stones throw away from the planned development.

Andrew Gunning, Chair of the Board of Governors at St. Paul’s Church of England VA Nursery and Primary School, Langleybury Lane, says the school strongly opposes the application.

If accepted, it would have a detrimental effect on ‘the health and safety of children and villagers’, Andrew claims.

He said: “This is already a very congested road at peak times and the traffic regularly backs up from J19, along the A41 and back to J20.

“Most of these vehicles will still have their engines running and will be pumping fumes into the local air.

“When an easterly wind blows it then arrives in our playground.

Another CGI of the development
Another CGI of the development
(Image: Moto Hospitality)

“In metrological terms, the United Kingdom is blessed with either westerly/easterly winds hence why all the major airports have their runways in this direction.

“If this site were given the go-ahead, there could only be an increase in the high level of pollution within our grounds.

“Children are outside in our grounds and take advantage of a Forest School on our land. The pollution levels are of increasing concern to us at school where children with asthma are at particular risk.

“For the first 9 months there will be no roundabout taking the construction traffic off the A41.

“If it leaves J20 it will need to run along to J19’s roundabout and come back past the school and church increasing both congestion and safety for all road users.”

The design of the proposal
The design of the proposal

Traffic has been a problem for years in the village because it is so close to the M25 and other main roads.

Any traffic or congestion backs up and leaves villagers stuck on roads just minutes away from their house.

One resident claimed that congestion on the roads is already at ‘breaking point’ and adding the service station to it would make it worse.

They said: “The congestion on the roads in the village is already at breaking point, adding a service station at junction 20 will dramatically increase congestion further and make road travel impossible.

“We already have regular traffic queues from the M25 junction 20 roundabout going back beyond the village with all supporting roads gridlocked as well.

“Any increase in traffic is simply not feasible, the roads cannot cope.

“An argument Moto will put forward is the development will bring employment to the area. I believe this will not be the case. We should be protecting small businesses, not making trading more difficult for them.”

They also argued the Green Belt Policy should be enough to outright refuse this proposal.

They added: “Green belt land should be preserved, not developed purely for profit.

“The aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl and provide openness and permanence. The Moto proposal would be a completely unnecessary development of greenbelt land as there is a more suited site with direct road access between junction 16 and 17.”

Also concerning residents is the planned housing increase in the village in the near future that has already been approved.

This will see more residents in the area adding to the traffic problems.

One person said: “With planned housing increase and that already approved, the (traffic) situation will become untenable.

“This is an unnecessary intrusion of the green belt which is already under great strain. The visual effect will be a further intrusion on the environment.

“There is a nearby Primary School and this will l create excessive pollution endangering the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

“The argument for employment is irrelevant as this area has one of the lowest unemployment situations in the country and could well create a problem for other local employers.

“The surrounding villages are of a rural nature and this will undoubtedly have an adverse on them.

“I can see no benefit from such a construction only the opposite effect.”

A common argument which residents stand by is whether another service station is actually needed as the nearest service station to Kings Langley on the M25 is 10 miles away in South Mimms.

Many believe that another one isn’t needed so close and would just be a waste.

One argued: “There are sufficient brownfield sites at other junctions on the motorway which could be developed rather than green belt land which will have a major impact the local wildlife at Junction 20 in the area. There are no mitigation plans for the wildlife.”

Residents have also been backed by local MPs, parish councils and residents’ associations.

Sir Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, has supported residents from the very start.

He said: “I have been contacted further by residents who are extremely concerned about the disproportionate adverse effect if these Moto Services proposals were to be approved.

“I totally support my residents, businesses, Parish Council, Borough Councillors and County Councillors in their objections.”

A spokesperson for Three Rivers District Council said: “As this is a live planning application we can’t comment directly on the application itself.

“But every application is always considered on its own merits in line with current planning policy.

“We also have a statutory duty to consider all applications submitted to us and cannot refuse to do so simply because of volume of objections.”

HertsLive – Hemel Hempstead