Decision day (take three) for McDonald’s and Starbucks planning application

Elevations of proposed Starbucks and McDonald's restaurants.

Councillors on South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) Spatial Planning Committee (SPC) will meet in Bradley Stoke on Tuesday afternoon (19th March) to “re-evaluate” a controversial planning application for new development at the town’s Willow Brook shopping centre.

The proposed scheme, which includes two new drive-through food units expected to be occupied by McDonald’s and Starbucks, had been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officers but was turned down by its Development Management Committee (DMC) at a meeting on 21st February. The DMC had previously met in January to consider the application, but deferred a decision to allow a site inspection visit to take place.

Residents of properties in Wheatfield Drive and Dewfalls Drive object to the scheme, saying that the drive-through units should be built closer to the existing main buildings at the centre, in keeping with its original design ethos. The closest property in Wheatfield Drive would be 22m distant from the single-storey Starbucks unit and 50m from the two-storey McDonald’s building

The DMC’s reasons for refusal were minuted as:

“That the proposed development, if permitted, would result in a harmful concentration of food and drink uses resulting in a prejudicial impact on residential amenity due to noise, general disturbance, fumes, smells, and late night activity.”

In view of the DMC’s decision to overturn the officer recommendation, the application has automatically been referred to the SPC, which is a larger committee of 26 members, from which the nine members of the DMC are drawn.

The SPC must deal with the application de novo, i.e. it is not a review of the DMC decision, but a full determination.

The eight attending members of the DMC who reached the first decision are not permitted to take part in the second determination, reducing the potential number of participants to 18. However, a further three members (all representing Bradley Stoke wards) are understood to have received advice that they have “fettered their discretion” on the matter, reducing the potential field to 15.

However, the Journal has learned that the political groups on SGC have agreed that to ensure “consistency and proportionality” only nine members will take part in the meeting on Tuesday, a number which also happens to form the quorum for this committee (i.e. one third of the total membership). Five members will come from the Conservatives with two each from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The political groups have indicated that the committee will comprise Cllrs Trevor Jones, Keith Burchell, David Chubb, Robert Griffin, Steve Reade, Roger Hutchinson, Ian Boulton, Pat Hockey and Clare Fardell.

Six of the above named SPC members attended a site inspection visit on Friday 8th March, along with one other SPC member from the Liberal Democrats, following which officers were asked to bring forward a report addendum that considers “a landscape strategy to mitigate against the impact of the re-routed [access] road upon the gardens of Dewfalls Drive”.

Perhaps the only significant change in the updated officer report published ahead of the SPC meeting is the resurfacing of the possibility of a condition being imposed to restrict the opening hours of the food units to 6am-11pm for Starbucks and 6am-midnight (Sun-Thu) / 6am-1am (Fri & Sat) for McDonald’s. This condition was originally proposed by the council’s environmental health officer but was rejected by the planning case officer on the grounds that it would be “difficult to substantiate” in view of existing 24-hour opening within the town centre and the findings of an ‘acoustic report’ submitted by the applicant.

When asked if the applicant had been asked for an opinion on the acceptability of a condition restricting opening hours and four other newly proposed conditions, an SGC spokesperson told the Journal:

“The applicant has had sight of the conditions in the published committee papers. The council has enquired to the applicant whether these would be acceptable but this has yet to be confirmed.”

As well as seeking full planning permission for the two new food units, the application also seeks outline permission for the addition of two new retail units on the end of the existing retail terrace (beyond Poundstretcher) and an associated re-arrangement of the car park. The Journal understands this second phase will not be implemented in the short term, but will be progressed dependent on occupier demand.

The meeting of the Spatial Planning Committee, which is open to the public, takes place at Brook Way Activity Centre (adjoining Bradley Stoke Surgery) [BS32 9DA; map] on Tuesday 19th March, starting at 1pm.

Members of the public wishing to speak at the meeting are asked to contact SGC Democratic Services by noon on Monday. For this or any further information about speaking at a council meeting, you should phone 01454 864425.

More information and related links:

Willow Brook Centre expansion masterplan (annotated extract).

Top: Street elevations of the Starbucks and McDonald’s units, viewed from the access road.

Above: Annotated plan showing closest residential property.

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  1. SGC’s Spatial Planning Committee has voted to REFUSE permission for proposed development at the Willow Brook Centre in Bradley Stoke.

    Eight members voted in support of the motion to refuse permission, with one member abstaining.

    The decision confirms an earlier one made by the council’s Development Management Committee.

    The applicant has the option of appealing the decision within six months.

    Live reporting on the BSJ Twitter feed

    Discussion on the BSJ Facebook page

  2. Wiki describes that UK the planning application process is strictly based on policy, not influence. This means that the refusal must have been on a legal basis, not based on opinion.

    What specifically were the legal grounds for rejection of the planning application?

  3. @Ash, You’re right about decisions needing to be made on policy. The reasons for refusal at the last (DMC) meeting are stated in the article above (see the full minutes for SGC policy references). The reasons for refusal at today’s meeting are the same as given at the DMC meeting plus some further references to the National Planning Policy Framework. More details will be given in the report in our next magazine.

  4. Thanks, I’d been following on Twitter and some of the comments from Councillors seemed a bit vague, I’ll be sure to review the full minutes.

  5. The policies read fairly ambiguously in regards to the restrictions on food and drink. It’s claimed that it would create a harmful concentration of food and drink, yet if it weren’t proposed to be next to Wheatfield Drive the Council would simply be welcoming the additional revenue. Was there any evidence to say that any fumes would be intrusive or was it simply assumed?

    Very subjective decision, and frankly ignorant to the fact that nearby pubs, shops and petrol stations are near housing and dont cause any problems. The waves car wash is right by their home too, I’m surprised it survived the wrath of public scrutiny.

  6. When reading the policy wording, you could say that it’s open to interpretation. There is some ambiguous terminology and the potential for the decision to have gone either way.

    It’s unlikely that there would have been any issues with the planning application had it originally been restricted hours and at a greater distance from residential housing. Now that it’s been classified as a dangerously high concentration of food and drink, it’s unlikely that similar proposals will be considered for the future.

    The fact that history has shown that the majority of commercial applications in Bradley Stoke have been met with aggressive public resistance could lead to business being driven away from the area.

    Those who challenged it may have won the short game but in turn could have lost the long game. It was called Sadly Broke before, it could be called it again.

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