M1 Lisburn Service Area (Applegreen)


Construction scheme (current)
To construct two service areas on opposite carriageways of the M1 motorway near Ballyskeagh, between j3 Black's Road and j6 Saintfield Road.To be known as "Lisburn Services".
Total Length

1999 - Plans originally submitted but not progressed to construction
Apr 2011 - Planning permission granted

Oct 2011 - DRD pass necessary legislation to allow construction of service area here

Oct 2013 - Revised planning applications submitted
Nov 2013 - Work begins on sliproads for westbound service area
10 Mar 2016 - Westbound service area opened

Apr 2016 - Work begins on eastbound service area
2 Feb 2017 - Eastbound service area opened


£unknown - - private development by Petrogas Ltd to be branded Applegreen
Total cost of the M1 and M2 service areas together is £25m.

See below
See Also

General area map - Google Maps

See also specific map below.
The M1/Trunk Road T3 (Motorway Service Area) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011 - Legal Order

Click here to jump straight down to updates for this scheme.

This plan will see a private company construct twin services areas on the M1 motorway between Belfast and Lisburn. They will include petrol and restaurant facilities accessed directly from the motorway, with no access to the local road network. As there will be no bridge over the M1, the two service areas will be independent, each duplicating the services of the other (although the westbound one is slightly larger as it is expected to be more popular). Note that although the M1 runs almost north-south here, I am referring to them as "eastbound" (to Belfast) and "westbound" (from Belfast) since the M1 more generally runs east-west. The chosen location is the only viable place for such a facility, as it must be located before the A1 diverges from the M1, in order to attract maximum custom, yet must also be located away from developed areas.

I don't normally list private developments on this site - it is included because it has such a high-profile impact on the M1 motorway.

The service areas is likely to be branded "Applegreen", similar to those the company owns in the Republic of Ireland. The developer estimates that the eastbound service area will attract 2400 visitors per day and the westbound one 3750 visitors per day (according to the 2013 planning application). The map below shows the proposed locations of the eastbound (blue) and westbound (red) service areas. You can see the detailed site plans by clicking here (eastbound) and here (westbound).

Planning Permission Timeline

  • 27 May 1999 - Planning applications first submitted (eastbound and westbound). 
  • 15 Apr 2011 - Planning permission finally given (after 12 years).
  • 24 Oct 2012 - Applications to vary some detail and allow phased construction submitted (eastbound, westbound)
  • 5 Feb 2013 - Application to vary detail approved (press release).
  • 10 Oct 2013 - Revised planning applications submitted (eastbound, westbound).


12 Mar 2017: A week ago I got my first trip to Applegreen's eastbound M1 service area which opened on 2 February 2017. As with the two already open, it is a very nice facility but also has features that make it a little different too. The most obvious is that it is slightly smaller, presumably due to Applegreen's own predictions that westbound would be the more popular of the two. At the same time, it features all the same shops and food outlets as its counterpart on the opposite carriageway. Anyway, the images below show the layout of the site and its various features.

Pic 1: View west from Ballyskeagh Bridge on 4 Mar 2017 showing BOTH M1 service areas now open and in use - westbound on the left (opened Mar 2016) and eastbound on the right (opened Feb 2017). [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: Looking west towards the M1, this is the offslip INTO the Applegreen eastbound service area seen on 4 Mar 2017. Once again featuring Northern Ireland's old favourite, a pair of flashing "no entry" wig-wag signs. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3: The terminal building of the eastbound service area seen on 4 Mar 2017 wit the petrol forecourt in front. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 4: Entrance to the eastbound terminal building itself. It is similar to the one on the westbound carriageway except that the upper floor with extra seating has been dispensed with. 4 Mar 2017 [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 5: View east along the onslip back onto the M1 from the eastbound service area as seen on 4 Mar 2017. An fascinating mixture of signs here - the "start of motorway regulations" sign (sometimes called the "chopsticks" sign in road slang), a speed limit sign (indicating national speed limit), a text plate reiterating that pedestrians are banned from motorways (though this is implied by the sign above it) and a "no right turn sign" (just in case someone is crazy enough to attempt to do a u-turn at the end of the sliproad). Plus a pair of small matrix signs to complement those already on the M1 (so that anyone in the service area doesn't miss out on messages being signed further back). This is something unique to this service area - the westbound service area doesn't have the matrix signs as these are not in use on the M1 westbound at this location. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 6: The eastern part of the car park is currently landscaped but could presumably be converted at a later date should demand require it. This service area doesn't feature the "Truck Stop" facility (a separate fuelling and parking area) that its larger counterpart on the westbound carriageway has. 4 Mar 2017. [Wesley Johnston]

8 Feb 2017: In keeping with Applegreen's tradition, the eastbound Lisburn Service Area opened quietly and without fanfare on Thursday 2
February 2017. I have not yet had a chance to visit, but those who have done so say it's basically a slightly scaled-down version of the eastbound one on the other side of the M1. Here is one news article that covered the opening. That means Applegreen have now opened three of the four motorway service areas they have planned in Northern Ireland, with the eastbound M2 service area being the only oustanding one. Congratulations to Applegreen.

27 Dec 2016: Work has progressed on the new eastbound Lisburn Service Area during the autumn and as of today it looks not far off completion, with the building in place and apparently being fitted out inside. The photograph below was taken about a fortnight ago, and shows how the main building looked then. The photographer prefers to remain anonymous, but thank you. Google's satellite imagery has also been updated, so you can now see the site works underway because the imagery was taken on 16 August 2016. Although an opening in 2016 is no longer possible, I would not be surprised if we saw Northern Ireland's third motorway service area open within the next month or so.

View of the main terminal building of the eastbound M1 Applegreen Lisburn Service Area on 9 December 2016. Note also the petrol forecourt roof in place with branding on the left [Anonymous contributor].

7 Aug 2016: Earthworks were completed during July and (I assume) work is now underway on construction of the service area itself. The three photos below were all taken on 17 June and together form a panorama from left to right. I was unable to update the site for the past two months, so I am only getting a chance to share them now - so just bear in mind that they show progress as it was about seven weeks ago. Nonetheless, they are an excellent record of this point of the works. The photographer prefers to remain anonymous, but thank you. Although it had previously been hoped that this service area would be open before the end of 2016, this now seems unlikely given the progress to date - a date sometime in early 2017 seems more plausible. Nevertheless, if it proves as popular with the public as its twin on the westbound carriageway, which opened in March, the owners should be happy.

Looking across the M1 towards the completed westbound service area from the construction site of the eastboudn service area on 17 Jun 2016. [Anonymous contributor]

Earthworks underway on the site of the future eastbound service area on 17 Jun 2016, again with the M1 in the background. [Anonymous contributor]

View across the site of the future eastbound service area on 17 Jun 2016. The purpose of the four posts on the left is probably to do with accurate positioning on the site. A similar construct appeared on the westbound service area during construction. [Anonymous contributor]

4 Jun 2016: The picture below of the future Eastbound service area was taken today from Ballyskeagh Bridge. It shows that substantial earthworks have taken place since my last visit 6 weeks ago (compare to Pic 9 in the previous update below). The works seem to be to move an existing slope backwards to create space for the construction of a motorway offslip. The site of the service area itself and the motorway onslip are less constrained by topography. A heavy-duty safety barrier has also been placed on the hard shoulder, which suggests that the next piece of work will be construction of the sliproads to give better access to the site. Applegreen have previously said that the service area should be open before the end of 2016.

View of the future eastbound M1 motorway service area from Ballyskeagh Bridge on 4 June 2016. The most obvious brown-coloured slope has been created to make space for the motorway offslip below, while the service area itself will be situated near where the pile of earth and red poles are located. [Wesley Johnston]

15 Apr 2016: Five weeks on from opening, I finally got my first opportunity to visit the westbound Lisburn Service Area today. I was very impressed with the facilities: after getting petrol I had my lunch there and sat upstairs where you get a panorama view of the whole ground floor, which includes several different hot food outlets, a shop and a childrens' play area. Other people appeared to like it too - from my vantage point I counted vehicles entering the site from the M1 and during a five minute period around 2.30pm eighteen vehicles arrived, which is roughly one arrival every 20 seconds. I then explored the exterior of the site on foot and I include the photos below (pics 1 to 8) with some more commentary. In other news, work has now clearly started on the eastbound (citybound) service area on the opposite side of the M1. Work to date is focused on vegetation clearance and earthworks (pics 9 and 10 below). There are also four large pillars in the middle of the site - from the location, these don't seem to be part of the future building so they may have another purpose, eg for reference when levelling the site or perhaps measuring ground conditions. Notably, no work has taken place on the sliproads for the eastbound service area. That happened first on the westbound service area, because there was no other access to the site. So it seems likely that the eastbound service area can be accessed from a local road, probably Sandy Lane which runs behind the site. Applegreen previously said that both service areas would be open before the end of 2016, and this certainly seems plausible.

Pic 1 - View of the completed westbound service area seen from Ballyskeagh Bridge on 15 Apr 2016. The service area is now open, but I took this photo to compare with the shots that appeared in previous updates (below) during construction. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2 - This is the offslip from the M1 as seen on 15 Apr 2016. The large sign straight ahead marks the end of motorway restrictions. Note the large cushion barrier at the diverge which is designed to absorb impact energy. The offslip is separated from the main carriageway by chevrons along most of its length, which is unusual and something I have not seen before. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3 - The petrol station and main building seen from the same location as Pic 2 but turning 180° round on 15 Apr 2016. There are parking spaces here, but the main car park is beyond the building. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 4 - You don't appreciate how truly enormous this sign at the entrance is until you stand beside it - it needs to be to be readable from a car approaching at 70mph! It lists the current fuel prices at the top, with the various food outlets listed below. Seen on 15 Apr 2016. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 5 - This is the view of the main building from the car park at the far side, seen on 15 Apr 2016. This side of the building has a road that only goes one-way, but there is a second road running behind the building that is two-way. This means if you drive to here but then realise you want to go back to the fuel area, you can do so. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 6 - The rear of the site has been built into a large drumlin, and in order to maximise the space an almost vertical gabion retaining wall has been built, seen here on 15 Apr 2016. The original plans showed a more conventional slope here. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 7 - At the far end of the site is what Applegreen call a "Truck Stop" which is a dedicated refueling and parking area for HGVs. 15 Apr 2016. Trucks are directed round the rear of the building to avoid driving through the main car park. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 8 - Finally, this is the onslip back onto the M1 seen on 15 Apr 2016. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 9 - Work on the eastbound (citybound) service area opposite the current one got underway during early April. This is the view of the future eastbound site from Ballyskeagh Bridge on 15 Apr 2016. Note that this work is able to take place without the sliproads being built, suggesting that there is an alternative site access point. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 10 - This is the view of the future eastbound service area seen from the westbound service area on 15 Apr 2016. The four metal poles are identical to poles that sat on the site of the westbound service area during initital groundworks, but I am not convinced that they are part of any of the final building, so they may have some other purpose. [Wesley Johnston]

13 Mar 2016: As expected, the westbound M1 service area opened to customers without much fanfare at 4pm on 10th March. Word quickly got out that it had opened, and by Friday it was packed with customers. The opening resulted in some opening day tailbacks on the M1 - blamed by some on "rubberneckng", it is in fact a well-known phenomenon that naturally results from a change to a road layout on a fast road and the resultant pattern of braking. It is likely to be merely a teething issue. The opening generated good publicity - the Newsletter was first with a video covering the immediate pre-opening and post-opening period on Thursday. The Belfast Telegraph also published an excellent photo gallery of the new service station on Friday, as well as as an article yesterday exploring the traffic congestion. I have not ventured into the service area yet, but hope to do so within the next few weeks. All told it looks like an excellent facility that is already proving very popular with the travelling public. Applegreen have previously said that a similar site on the eastbound carriageway will open before the end of 2016, but as yet work does not appear to have started on this.

5 Mar 2016: Following the previous update, I've now been told on good authority that Applegreen plan to open the westbound M1 service area on Thursday 10 March! This is great news - we eagerly await.

2 Mar 2016: A huge amount of progress seems to have been made since the start of the year on the westbound service area. I include two photos below which were taken from the M1 yesterday by a site visitor who prefers to remain anonymous (thank you!). The buildings now appear to be externally completed and are being fitted out inside. Landscaping works, tarmacking of car parks etc has been progressing and, most interestingly, signage has now appeared on the approaches. Although partly covered up, it is now clear that the service area is to be called "Lisburn Services" and, as expected, branded "Applegreen". With thanks to Oliver McKeown for these observations. At least two site visitors have reported that works are now taking place on the eastbound carriageway, where the citybound service area is due to be sited, but as yet I have not got any confirmation as to whether this is the start of construction or some unrelated work such as the communication works that were carried out at that spot in January. Anyhow, I would not be at all surprised if the westbound service area was opened to the public during late March or April.

Approach signage now in place at the start of the offslip to the westbound service area on 1 March 2016. It looks as if the sign says "Lisburn Services". [Anonymous contributor]

The westbound service area seen from the M1 on 1 March 2016, looking not far from completion with the buildings now apparently being fitted out and tarmac laid. The large blue sign says "end of motorway regulations", a word-based sign which is also found on service areas on the GB motorway network. The M2 site has similar signage. [Anonymous contributor]

2 Jan 2016: Enormous progress has been made over the past two months. I got one chance to photograph the scheme over Christmas, from Ballyskeagh Bridge. The low winter sun meant that the lighting was quite poor, but I share it below anyway. As you can see the superstructure of the service area was in place and the roof was going on. It's hard to see, but it's likely that work has also taken place on the surrounding car parks and filling station infrastructure. You can see what looks like a gabion retaining wall now in place supporting the earth at the extreme left. An opening in January seems a bit optimistic, but if not doesn't open then, it should not be much beyond that before this becomes Northern Ireland's second motorway service area.

The westbound M1 service area seen from Ballyskeagh Bridge on a sunny 22 Dec 2015. [Wesley Johnston]

9 Nov 2015: After sitting idle, or at least with not much happening, for several months over the summer, work seemed to resume on the westbound service area during the autumn and the earthworks now seem to be completed, though as yet there is no sign of the terminal building going up. The Belfast Telegraph did a piece on the service area about 8 weeks ago and at that point the developer was anticipating that the westbound service area would open "by the end of January" 2016. Area manager Matthew Scally is quoted as saying "Applegreen on the westbound carriageway of the M1 at Lisburn will be open by the end of January next year and the other two [on the M2 and M1] are on schedule for the end of 2016". This suggests that work on the eastbound (citybound) service area will get underway during 2016 and open during the year. This will be good news, especially given how successful the M2 service area has been since it opened seven months ago.

5 Jul 2015: A representative of Applegreen was in touch with me in mid June, but for family reasons I've only just had a chance to update the site tonight. He confirmed that the works to date have been for site preparation, and that the actual construction will "commence in earnest shortly". He also said that there was currently no timescale for construction of the southbound service area. Meanwhile a local person I spoke to suggested that the delay might have been related to a decision to buy some additional land for the service area, but this has not been confirmed.

10 Jun 2015: Progress has been painfully slow on the westbound service area. I had a look earlier this week, and since February a huge retaining wall made from what looks like gabions (cages with rocks) has been erected at the rear of the site, presumably to shore up the excavations into the landscape. There aren't any visible signs of the building itself. A few weeks ago I was contacted by a representative of Applegreen (who will operate the site) who offered to give me an update, but unfortunately he did not return my phone calls or emails so I have nothing further to add. Certainly the traveling public would appreciate knowing what the intentions are for this site as it has now been under construction for a year and a half with not much to show for it.

7 Feb 2015: After the sliproads for the westbound service area were largely completed last summer there seemed to then be a hiatus where nothing much happened. However, in recent weeks work seems to have resumed at a feverish pace. The image below was taken yesterday from Ballyskeagh Bridge. The telephoto has squashed it up, but the cones mark the position of the offslip (completed but not in use). There is evidence of a lot of earthworks underway to prepare the level site needed for construction of the car parks and buildings. Although the equivalent service area on the M2 has its building largely erected, there is no evidence of the building on the M1 as yet. Hopefully this will begin soon. It is still possible that work could be completed by this summer but I have heard no official timetable. There is no evidence of work commencing on the eastbound service area which will lie on the opposite carriageway of the M1. Last June the developer suggested that they'd both open in 2015 (see previous update) but it now seems less likely that the eastbound service area will open this year.

M1 westbound service area under construction on 6 February 2015 as seen from Ballyskeagh Bridge [Wesley Johnston]. Contrast this with the image taken in April 2014 below.

19 Jun 2014: The earthworks for the westbound sliproads seem to be nearing completion, with fencing now in place adjacent to the future offslip. We will probably see road surfacing being laid in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, it has now been confirmed in the media that the service area will be branded "Applegreen" and that both eastbound and westbound service areas will open during 2015. The total cost of the M1 and M2 service areas together is given as £25m.

21 Apr 2014: It is hard to get a safe and legal vantage point from which to see this scheme, but I have discovered that a telephoto lens from Ballyskeagh bridge works a treat - see photo below! This picture of the westbound service area was taken ten days ago on 11 April 2014. The telephoto tends to squash it up somewhat, but you can see both the offslip (where the three diggers area) and the onslip (in the distance, before the blue sign) as well as the site of the service area between them (all the mounds of earth). It looks to me as if the offslip is requiring a retaining wall above the field behind, while the onslip is requiring the opposite direction of retaining wall to support the slope behind. There seems to be a lot of work on the site of the service area itself, but it's not clear if this is the beginning of the work on this element, or simply a storage area for the sliproad work. The contractor has been banned from using the local road network during construction, so the site is only accessible from the M1, meaning long round trips to Saintfield Road in Lisburn for workers heading to Belfast at the end of the day. No work has begun on the eastbound service area. It is possible that the westbound one will be finished and opened before any work begins on the eastbound one.

Work on the westbound M1 service area as seen with maximum telephoto from Ballyskeagh bridge on 11 Apr 2014, showing that work is still focusing on provision of the offslip and onslip. [Wesley Johnston]

6 Dec 2013: Work started about a week ago on the westbound M1 to construct the offslip and onslip for the westbound service area. It is not clear if this work is simply going to create two sliproads and then stop, since this work is probably being carried out by Roads Service (presumably paid for by the developer) rather than the developer itself. Although planning permission was granted in 2011, and remains valid until 2016 or until work begins, the revised planning applications submitted on 10 October 2013 has not yet been approved, and indeed the westbound one seems to have attracted a very large number of objections. I am not certain why this new planning application was required, or how it differs from the one approved in 2011. So we will have to wait and see what happens when the sliproads are completed. No work appears to have been carried out yet on the eastbound service area.