[Letter] What are they doing to our town centre?

Inset: Cllr Roger Avenin, district and town councillor for Bradley Stoke South ward.

No doubt there are people who believe that chicken nuggets and fries or a grease-soaked burger are the epitome of a succulent wholesome meal, but to many others, this is pure anathema.

So how did such a down-market development such as McDonald’s and Starbucks come to be foisted upon our town?

The decision arrived at by the planning inspector appears to have been taken without any regard whatsoever for the local residents. Virtually all the objections raised i.e. the negative effects on nearby residents such as noise, litter, possible air pollution, anti social behaviour etc. seem to have been imperiously disregarded on the basis of little or no evidence. Likewise other concerns such as traffic problems, location close to schools, potential child obesity, car parking availability etc. were seemingly dismissed with a wave of the hand.

When the chickens come home to roost (no pun intended) the name of planning inspector F. Moss will live long in the memory of local residents.

However, this decision cannot be viewed in isolation without examining the role of the South Gloucestershire planning department. Right from the outset, the planning department sought to promote this application through meetings with the applicants, allegedly ignoring the views of local residents.

When this application came before the various planning committees, the council fought hard to get this through, but after the application was refused by both committees, the council was then duty-bound to defend the refusal decision. This they arguably did, but in my view only in a half-hearted manner.

Not much is known regarding the consultancy firm the council employed to do this, but the report they produced had far more points of agreement with the applicants than points of objection. This was far from a robust defence. Even the inspector’s report referred to the lack of evidence from the council to support the refusal. The system as such was clearly weighted heavily against local people.

South Gloucestershire Council has many good functions which are generally appreciated by the public. Unfortunately planning is not one of them, and it is not hard to see why. I believe they have failed the local residents, failed Bradley Stoke Town Council, failed local schools, and failed their own district councillors who sat on the planning committees.

A sad day for local democracy.

Cllr Roger Avenin
District and town councillor for Bradley Stoke South ward

Photo: Archive image of Cllr Roger Avenin inset over a representative image of a two-storey Mcdonald’s restaurant with drive-through lane.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 32). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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  1. There is a huge weight of evidence which cannot be dismissed as “not substantive” as the Planning Inspector claims within their report. It is an insult, not only to the residents and the councillors who rejected this, but also to many fields of science itself to claim there is no good reason not to build these fast food and coffee outlets in the car park for Bradley Stoke Town Centre (which is the Willowbrook Centre – people seem to make a distinction between the two, but as far I’m aware they are exactly the same thing).

    J Moss repeatedly uses the personal article ‘I’ within the report. Why does his/her single opinion outweigh everyone else’s? I.e. that of the residents, everyone who opposed the planning application, everyone who sits on the planning committee who rejected these plans, and decides the built environment of Bradley Stoke Town Centre?

    The headmaster/mistress of Bradley Stoke Community School, a pillar of the community, opposed the planning proposal, but their voice was also dismissed.

    Channel 4 are this week televising a documentary on childhood obesity, it features a Bristol clinic which is being inundated with 100kg children. The NHS is creaking under the pressure, and this is not an opinion, it is fact. I read this week that 20% of kids these days are overweight or obese, and this unit is going within a stone’s throw of Bradley Stoke Community College. Incidentally, there’s also a documentary on what coffee production is doing to the planet (Starbucks to me are as equally as not welcome as McDonalds are). I did a quick google news search ‘Starbucks sugar’ the first hit is an article in the Independent that statees that a Caramel Frappuccino has as much sugar as as a whole litre of coke.

    It’s weird to think that one week, Greta Thunberg comes to town to raise awareness of the climate crisis and so many get behind it. The next week, we’re approving the building of fast food units whose business model is to serve as many burgers as possible made from intensely farmed meat (which is a massive contributor to climate change), with salty and greasy fries plus sugary drink to wash it down – with a trendy coffee joint next door knocking out iced caramel frappuccinos – all in disposable and discardable packaging – and not expecting this to have any detrimental effects on anyone or the local area.

    The car park at the Willowbrook is rammed very often especially at weekends and around Christmas, to reduce the number of spaces whilst increasing the demand on them, and not expect worse congestion, quite frankly: is thick! It will only make the congestion worse. The number of cars idling waiting in the drive thru will not benefit the local environment, nor will the bright signs, nor will the inevitable litter, nor will the noise of the boy racers doing doughnuts late at night.

    Not to mention the amount of times the 24 hour McDonalds in Broadmead features in the Bristol Post for the wrong reasons – if this unit is built, I see no reason why it wouldn’t attract similar trouble. You’ll get people in lowered and modified cars that push the boundaries of being road legal turning up. You’ll get congregations of people at all hours and I personally believe you’ll also get trouble. It will increase the strain on our public services, the police, the NHS.

    Jack Lopresti, our Conservative MP, has openly praised the McDonald’s franchise at Filton Abbeywood Retail Park (which definitely is a retail park, and not a town centre) – Google ‘Jack Lopresti McDonalds’ to find his Facebook post. There is clearly political will behind pushing this decision through.

    To allow these units to be built is a complete dismissal of the will of the residents and Bradley Stoke Town local councillors. It is a failing of the local MP, the Planning Inspectorate and South Gloucestershire Planning Department – who for some reason (god knows why) seem to think it will benefit Bradley Stoke. The only positive reason I can think of is that it will bring a few jobs, but surely that is outweighed by everything I’ve mentioned already.

  2. While I totally agree with many of the points raised by the Wheatfield Drive resident I cannot agree that this was a political decision. At my prompting Jack Lopresti did meet with the local residents and did put in a superbly crafted objection to this planning application. This has nothing to do with political machinations. Indeed Jack has promised to raise this issue with the Secretary of State although expectations for this are not great. This decision was purely arrived at by one Planning Inspector virtually aided and abetted by what appears to be a complicit Local Planning Authority.

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