SGC committee refuses permission for McDonald’s and Starbucks drive-throughs

Composite image showing McDonald's and Starbucks logos overlaid on a photo of the Willow Brook Centre site.

A controversial planning application for new developments at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook shopping centre that would include two new drive-through food units anticipated to be occupied by McDonald’s and Starbucks has been refused permission.

The proposed scheme, which also includes two new retail units and rearrangement of the car park, had been recommended for approval by a South Gloucestershire Council planning officer, but was ‘called in’ by a number of local ward members for determination by committee.

Meeting at the Jubilee Centre in Bradley Stoke on Thursday 21st February, the Development Management (DM) Committee was considering the application for the second time in four weeks after members had deferred a decision at their January meeting to allow a site inspection visit to take place.

Photo showing council members, officials and members of the public at the DMC meeting on 21st February.

Above: Committee meeting under way at the Jubilee Centre.

Proceedings at the meeting followed the usual pattern with supporters and objectors being given time to air their views before councillors debated the issues, with guidance from the principal planning officer. However, one noticeable difference this time was that Bradley Stoke councillor Roger Avenin, who, as a committee member, had spoken strongly against the application at the previous meeting, spoke from the public gallery, his place on the committee having been taken by Stoke Gifford councillor Ernie Brown. The Journal understands that Cllr Avenin was advised to step down as it was feared that he may have “fettered his discretion”.

Many of the points raised by the public and local ward councillors centred on the remoteness of the two food units from the main buildings at the centre (they would be positioned either side of the current Waves car wash) and their close proximity to residential properties in Wheatfield Drive.

Willow Brook Centre expansion masterplan (annotated extract).

Above: Annotated plan showing closest residential property.

Following the site inspection visit, the applicant had submitted sketches showing that 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. However, it was pointed out by one councillor that vehicles using the drive-through lanes would pass much closer than this to the property.

Photo of three of the councillors who voted against (l-r): Ken Dando, Ernie Brown and (in background) Dave Hockey.

With five of the eight committee members having raised concerns relating to noise, pollution, anti-social behaviour, the proposed 24-hour opening and the creation of a “harmful concentration” of food outlets within the town centre, a proposal was tabled to refuse the application. The principal planning officer advised that, before moving to a vote, members should consider granting permission but with conditions applied that would mitigate against their areas of concern. However, Cllr Dave Hockey said several of his concerns weren’t addressed at all in the officer report and far too many conditions would be needed to make the application acceptable.

On eventually moving to a vote, the application was refused permission by five votes to one, with two abstentions.

Because the DM Committee’s decision is contrary to the officer recommendation, under new procedures introduced by the council last November the application will now automatically be referred to a larger parent committee, the Spatial Planning (SP) Committee. This mechanism is intended to ensure that “planning decisions are taken in the best interests of the public and don’t expose the council to unnecessary risks and costs which can come if a developer appeals a council decision”.

A spokesperson for The Brookmaker Limited Partnership, owner of the Willow Brook Centre, said:

“We are disappointed that councillors have chosen to overturn their officer’s recommendation and refuse the application for the extension of the Willow Brook Centre in Bradley Stoke.”

“We have worked closely with officers at South Gloucestershire Council to deliver a policy-compliant application that sought to improve the offering available at the centre with additional food and drink and retail units.”

“We hope that members of the SP Committee [when they hear the application] will be minded to follow their officer’s recommendation and grant approval.”

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This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 6 & 7). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

Update (7th March 2019)

It has not yet been confirmed when the Willow Brook Centre planning application will be heard by the Spatial Planning Committee. The next scheduled meeting of the committee is shown in the council’s calendar as being on Monday 25th March.

The SPC will deal with the application de novo (i.e. it is not a review of the DMC’s decision, but a full determination).

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  1. Here’s a few thoughts on the objections thus far:

    It’s too close to my house:
    The planning application meets the legal requirements and is not closer than other sites.

    Increased litter:
    Complaint void without evidence of current and prior complains to Willow Brook about litter.

    Complaint void, there would already be joyriders in the carpark now?

    Increased noise:
    Local pubs are open until midnight and have music, there are few complaints, if any.

    There are enough food & beverage seats:
    Complaints were already made to Willow Brook about the lack of seating, that’s why they want to build this.

    Teenagers will hang around there:
    Teenagers are not horrible, you are horrible for having this attitude toward young people.

    Children will eat there:
    It’s the parent’s responsibility to teach and monitor children’s health, diet and activities.

    We don’t want junk food here:
    There are fewer calories in a Big Mac than in a Costa sausage bap, did you complain about Costa?

    Willow Brook is a food court:
    There are 29 businesses that are not food or drink in Willow Brook vs 6 that do serve food and beverage.

    Original residents didn’t know it’d be there:
    Bradley Stoke was planned to be self-sufficient, with the inclusion of a 10-acre town square and leisure centre. They knew.

    Just drive to Filton or Cribbs:
    Not everyone drives or has access to private transport. There are numerous complaints about traffic in and out of Bradley Stoke, telling people to drive elsewhere won’t improve traffic.

    There are so many other McDonalds locally:
    Many stores are closing down in Cribbs Causeway and high-street retailers are suffering as it is, this is a welcome opportunity for commercial development.

    We don’t like McDonalds’s:
    Tough, this isn’t a dictatorship. Some people do like it and it’s not up to you to decide otherwise. The plan is for 4 commercial units, not just a McDonald’s.

    Why not use the old Poundworld space?
    Do you actually think that they could afford the rent on the place and still make a profit?

    We don’t need more jobs, there is very low unemployment:
    The population is always growing, as shops are closing across the country, unemployment levels will rise. Adding jobs in the area is not a justifiable or legal reason to object to a planning application. Try telling your kids they can’t get a job because of your complaints.

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