Town council objects to Willow Brook Centre’s “McDonald’s & Starbucks” planning application

Photo of the committee meeting in progress.

The Willow Book Centre’s plans to expand its tenant base through the addition of two new drive-through food and drink units (foreseen to be occupied by McDonald’s and Starbucks) and two new retail units have received a setback after a Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) committee voted to raise an objection to the formal planning application, submitted on 26th March.

The town council’s views will now be sent for consideration by planning officers at South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), which is the body charged with determining the application.

Full planning permission is being sought for the food and drink units (phase 1) but only outline permission for the retail units (phase 2), meaning that a further ‘reserved matters’ planning application will be needed in due course for the latter.

A decision on the application is likely to still be several months away, due to the size of the proposed development and the fact that a number of statutory consultees have also raised concerns which will need to be considered by planning officers and discussed with the applicant.

Meeting on 25th April at the Jubilee Centre, in the presence of around 15 members of the public, BSTC’s Planning & Environment Committee listened to the views of local residents for around 30 minutes before examining a small subset of the 50+ documents that form the application.

Permission is being sought for 24 hours per day and 7 days per week opening for the Starbuck’s and McDonald’s units, with the former expected to provide employment for the equivalent of 20 full-time staff and the latter employing more than 65 full and part-time staff.

Phase 1 will result in a net loss of 80 car parking spaces at the centre. No further spaces will be lost if phase 2 is implemented, thanks to a “reconfiguration” of the car park.

The initial right-hand bend into the car park will need to be widened as part of the phase 1 works, to allow easy access for delivery vehicles servicing the new food and drink units.

At the time of writing, more than 60 comments have been made on the planning application by members of the public, all of them registering objections.

SGC’s environmental protection team has also raised concerns, stating: “We have serious concerns however about the effect of phase 1 … on the nearby housing with regard to potential noise from cars idling; voices and noise from people in cars; any sound equipment being used in cars; and the potential for light from headlights in residential properties as the cars enter the new developments.”

Comments made on the Journal’s online channels are more balanced with roughly equal numbers for and against. [See: 1, 2, & 3]

Neighbours speaking at the meeting described the proposals as “grossly inappropriate” in view of the units’ proximity to housing. Fears were expressed over increased litter (said to be already a problem around the centre) and the potential for an increase in the rat population.

One resident, whose property would be just tens of metres away from the food and drink units, expressed concerns over the potential for noise from air conditioning units on the roofs of the units and said he would be “gassed out” by cooking fumes.

Another resident asked whether it was wise to build a McDonald’s “next to two schools” and argued that there are already sufficient McDonald’s and Starbucks branches in the area. He also raised concern over increased traffic and air pollution, saying this would negate the benefits claimed for MetroBus.

The potential for anti-social behaviour was also raised, with one resident saying: “We know the type of clientele that McDonald’s attracts. Nobody here will say it won’t cause problems.”

Following a short discussion, councillors voted unanimously to object to the application on the grounds that it would lead to an increase in traffic levels, also citing “highways and transportation issues, environmental concerns relating to noise and lights plus the impact on local houses”.

Speaking after the meeting, the neighbours said they were happy that town councillors “seemed to be on the same wavelength”, but accepted that the decision process was likely to be a “long haul”.

Photo: BSTC’s Planning & Environment Committee considers the planning application at its meeting on 25th April.

Willow Brook Centre expansion masterplan (annotated extract).

Above: Development Masterplan from the formal planning application, reference PT18/1491/O. [click image to enlarge]

  • Orange outline: Phase one
  • Blue outline: Phase two
  • This plan shows the proposed layout of the car park and access road at the end of phase 2.
  • For phase 1, the access road will remain as it is at present, except for the first right-hand turn being widened to allow easy access for delivery vehicles serving the two new food and drink units.

More information and related links:

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 20 & 21). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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