A planned expansion of a popular M5 service station in Somerset has been scrapped – because it could harm local bat populations.

Roadchef Motorways Ltd operates the Taunton Deane services on the M5 between Junction 26 (for Wellington) and Junction 25 (for Taunton).

The company applied in early-December 2023 to extend the southbound services and carry out a full internal refurbishment of the facilities and business units within the existing block.

But Somerset Council has vetoed the development, claiming that too little information has been provided about how any impact on bats will be addressed.

The services, which lie in the parish of Pitminster, has been open since 1976 and operates 24 hours a day.

The southbound services includes a WHSmith newsagents, a McDonald’s, Chozen Noodle, Fresh Food Café, Cornish Bakery and Costa Coffee – with the latter two outlets having outside seating.

The main building – which was given a minor facelift in 2018 – includes a gaming area, public toilets and seating areas.

Under the proposals, the main building would have been extended towards the car park, providing nearly 260 sq m of extra covered space for seating and a new restaurant.

This would have enabled the food operator Leon to open a new outlet at the services, creating up to 13 jobs in the process, as well as providing a larger area for Costa Coffee customers.

Rachel Reaney, director of Astrum Planning, which is representing the applicant, added: “The reconfiguration of the internal floorspace will allow for an improved and wider internal circulation route, which will be served by a new pedestrian entrance.

“Finally, the proposal will relocate an existing counter operated by Chozen Noodle to the north east of the building, to allow an improved offer at WHSmith.”

The plans were refused through the delegated powers of the council’s planning officers, rather than a public decision by its planning committee west, which handles significant applications in the former Somerset West and Taunton area.

Planning officer Gareth Clifford said: “The lack of information concerning bats mean it is not possible to ensure there will be no harm to protected species as a result of the development.”

Mickey Green, the council’s executive director for climate and place, added: “We have worked in a positive and creative way with the applicant and has looked for solutions to enable the grant of planning permission.

“However, in this case the applicant was unable to satisfy the key policy test
and as such the application has been refused.

“They are advised to resubmit when appropriate wildlife survey information is

Roadchef has not indicated whether it intends to appeal the decision.