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Motorway giants in fight to change ‘outdated' laws

31 March 2006

Roadside groups have stepped up their fight to change laws which campaigners say leave motorway service areas "stuck in a time warp".

The sector's three big players, RoadChef, Welcome Break and Moto, have joined together to meet MPs and the Highways Agency ahead of a 12-week consultation that will review the 1950s regulations.

Gripes include limits on space, laws that restrict roadside branding, and a ban on alcohol sales at adjacent hotels.

RoadChef chief executive Martin Grant said: "Outdated and unreasonable constraints prevent motorway service areas from providing services that meet modern customer requirements."

He called for the current limit on retail trading area to be increased from 5,000sq ft to 15,000sq ft.

Brian Lotts, managing director of Compass-owned Moto, said a change in the law would increase competition. "Consumers need to be given more choice, and we would look to trial more brands if the rules were changed," he said.

Martin Couchman, British Hospitality Association deputy chief executive, said current restrictions could put off much-needed investment in the sector, but adverts along motorways was not the answer to the signage issue. "We would only want to see a slight liberalisation of the signage laws," he said.

Grant also called on the Government to allow service area hotels to serve alcohol. "They should be given the same rights as every other hotel in the UK to serve residents with a drink over dinner," he said. The fact that alcohol was often available a few hundred yards beyond a service area made a mockery of the law, he added.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said the consultation period would begin "later in the spring".

By Tom Bill

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