The changes put the onus on developers and operators to identify sites and submit plans rather than the Department of Transport.
The four schemes where permission has been given are Hapsford on the M56 near Chester, Field Farm on the M4 near Reading, Westenhanger on the M20 near Folkestone and Bowburn on the A1(M) north of Darlington.
There are 45 service stations in England. John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, said 20 schemes were in the pipeline in addition to the four that already had planning permission. However, the Department of Transport could yesterday list only a further 15 sites where permission had been applied for and a further three being built - two on the M40 and one on the M11. Some of the potential new ones are mutually exclusive including three applications for the M6 near Stone and two relatively near each other on the M40. The minimum distance in future between service stations will be 15 miles rather than 30, although the 30-mile limit had been breached already on the M1 and M6.
Edmund King, campaigns manager for the RAC, welcomed the potential increase but lamented the lack of new continental-style picnic sites.
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