JD Wetherspoon to open first motorway pub on M40 despite criticism from campaigners that it will 'tempt' drivers to drink

Road safety groups condemn move which 'sends out the wrong message to drivers'

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The Independent Online

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon will open its first pub at a motorway service station on the M40 despite criticism from campaigners that it will “tempt” drivers to drink.

The new bar which will be licensed to serve alcohol between 8am and 1am, will open at the Extra service station in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire later this year.

Wetherspoon Chairman Tim Martin hailed the £2 million pub which is set to create 50 jobs as an "exciting new development" which he hoped would be "the first of many Wetherspoon's on the motorway".

However, road safety groups Brake and the Alcohol Health Alliance have condemned the move which they believe will send out the wrong message to motorists and "put temptation in front of drivers".

Mr Martin said: "The company has always been innovative and this is an exciting new development for us."

A spokesman for Brake told the BBC: "The opening of a pub on the motorway could be of real concern unless safeguards are put in place with strong messages to warn about the dangers of drink-driving.

"As it is putting temptation there in front of drivers, it is doubly important the messages are extra clear. Our advice to drivers is if you are driving, don't drink any amount of alcohol."

The charity says each month in Great Britain 23 people are killed and 108 people are seriously injured by drivers over the drink-drive limit.

A Wetherspoon spokesman said: "We believe the majority of people that use the pub to drink will be people that aren't driving - coach parties or people travelling with others.

"We won't be asking them whether they are driving. It's up to them."

The firm met with Thames Valley Police and South Bucks District Council before submitting their application. In its application to the council, the firm said: "Materials to remind customers of the dangers of the requirement not to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol will be displayed in the premises."

Wetherspoon which has almost 900 pubs, some close to busy roads, will not be contributing to irresponsible behaviour, according to Martin: "It has never been suggested in the past that our pubs have contributed to drink-driving problems as a result of this proximity.

"In fact, alcoholic drinks have been available at motorway services for some time from outlets like Marks & Spencer, although there has not been a bona fide pub in the past," he said in a statement.

The Home Office has been consulting on a law currently banning the sale of alcohol at some motorway service areas.

A spokeswoman said: "The Government's Alcohol Strategy consultation, which includes looking at the sale of alcohol in motorway service areas, closed on 6 February. We will listen to all views and set out our response in due course."

Wetherspoon said it had received no objections to the plans. The pub is expected to be open by Christmas.