Councillors overruled: McDonald’s and Starbucks drive-throughs allowed on appeal

Photo of a typical McDonald's restaurant with drive-through.
A typical two-storey McDonald’s restaurant with drive-through.

Editor’s note: This article, first published in our February magazine, is an extended version of an earlier website article that was published on 16th January 2020 (the day the planning inspector’s report was released).

Bradley Stoke looks set to get two new drive-through and sit-in fast food restaurants after a planning inspector allowed an appeal against South Gloucestershire Council’s decision to refuse permission for development at the town’s Willow Brook shopping centre.

The inspector’s decision means that ‘full’ permission has been granted for a two-storey McDonald’s restaurant and a single-storey Starbucks coffee shop, both to be located on the northern edge of the centre’s car park, approximately where the Waves hand car wash is currently positioned.

No restrictions have been placed on the trading hours of the two units, leaving open the possibility of 24-hour operation.

Once implemented, the development will result in a net loss of 80 parking bays within the shopping centre’s car park.

‘Outline’ permission has also been granted for two extra units to be added on the end of the centre’s existing ‘retail terrace’ (i.e. beyond the Poundstretcher store) and an associated reconfiguration of the car park and access road.

The application was strongly opposed by local residents in Wheatfield Drive and Dewfalls Drive, where the closest residential property is just 22m away from the proposed Starbucks outlet.

Bradley Stoke Town Council also registered an objection to the scheme following a unanimous vote at its Planning Committee. The application was subsequently rejected by two different planning committees at South Gloucestershire Council before being taken to appeal by the owners of the Willow Brook Centre.

Willow Brook Centre expansion masterplan (annotated extract).
Willow Brook Centre expansion masterplan (annotated extract).

Alongside the perceived impact on residential amenity, the local authority’s grounds for refusal were that the development was contrary to national planning policy because it “fails to promote the economic, social and environmental character of the area”.

In the view of the fact that its own officers had recommended approval of the application prior to it being refused by elected councillors sitting on its planning committees, the council chose to employ an external consultant to put forward its defence during the appeal process.

In her seven-page ‘final decision’ report, published on 16th January, the planning inspector says the main issue she had to consider was the impact of the fast food units on the living conditions of nearby residents “with regard to noise, disturbance, fumes and odours”.

The inspector says she accepts the findings of a night-time noise assessment report submitted by the applicant and concludes that the development “would be acceptable in terms of its impact on the living conditions of nearby residents”.

Referring to complaints of noise and disturbance from users of the existing car park, as well as allegations of anti-social behaviour on the site, she adds that the 24-hour presence of staff within the fast food units “may deter anti-social behaviour in some regard”.

Concerns over fumes (from idling vehicles) and odours (cooking smells) are dismissed on the grounds that there is a “lack of substantiated evidence” provided by the council.

The inspector concludes: “Whilst I understand the apprehension of local residents, there is no substantive evidence to justify the dismissal of the appeal on the grounds of harm to living conditions or any other grounds that have been raised.”

Bradley Stoke town councillors, who objected to the application via their own planning committee, have expressed their disappointment at the outcome. Speaking at a meeting on 22nd January, Cllr Theresa Cullen alleged: “This was a done deal from the very beginning.”

Cllr Keith Cranney urged members of the Dewfalls and Wheatfield Drive Residents Association present at the meeting “not to give up”, advising them that there is likely to be a licensing application submitted for the two fast food units in due course.

Replying to a resident’s concerns that the planning inspector hadn’t imposed any additional conditions on the consent, such as restricting opening hours, Cllr Cranney added: “It’s almost as though she didn’t read the papers.”

Two planning applications for advertising signage on the proposed fast food units are still to be determined.

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

“We are pleased with the decision of the Planning Inspectorate and are now progressing with the next stage of the development. We look forward to sharing further details in due course.”

The Journal invited South Gloucestershire Council to provide a statement, but the opportunity was declined.

Statement from the Dewfalls and Wheatfield Drive Residents Association (DAWDRA)

Our objections to this development have never been just about the type of businesses proposed. They have always been about the close proximity of these types of developments and the moving of the access road closer to our homes/gardens.

It is disappointing the way the Willow Brook management company has treated neighbouring residents and advised from the outset they would not negotiate any changes to their proposed plans.

In the light of this, coupled with the short-sighted views and poor decisions made by South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) planning department, we are surprised the Planning Inspectorate has gone along with this without due consideration of the impact on the town and neighbouring residents. The planning Inspector indicated that SGC’s planning department failed to provide any technical evidence in their appeal statement, therefore they did not defend their councillors’ decision adequately.

This decision does nothing to improve or enhance the character of Bradley Stoke as a community town.

Despite many DAWDRA members living adjacent to this development and, agreed, they are mostly affected by this, DAWDRA has the overall improvement of the town centre in mind. This decision does nothing to support this.

Although the Willow Brook Centre claims to have received requests for more sit-down restaurants, ‘lounge-type’ restaurants would come to mind, not drive-through fast food/drink.

SGC’s planning department has blundered through this with error upon error, including noise, litter and environmental reports that we consider cannot be adequately backed up with facts. We included in our objection a report that confirmed this.

Examples are breaching data protection laws by publishing names and details of minors in a McDonald’s survey, applying unacceptable pressure towards the councillors to approve the decisions in planning meetings and dismissing their own environmental health officer’s recommendations to protect the bordering residents.

Councillors made it clear they had a duty to the public to consider impacts on all of Bradley Stoke, which we believe they successfully achieved by refusing the plans not once but twice.

It is disappointing to see there is nothing the general public can do to stop unacceptable development impacting them, their community, their families and their homes with the current UK planning legislation in place today.

Photo of a single-storey Starbucks restaurant with drive-through lane.
Example of a single-storey Starbucks restaurant with drive-through lane.

Note: Building images are representative only; refer to planning application for precise details of proposed buildings on this site.

More information and related links:

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 8, 9 & 10). 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.

Postscript (26th February 2020)

Two planning applications (P19/09453/ADV and P19/09456/ADV) for advertising signage on the proposed McDonald’s restaurant have been recommended for approval by council officers. However, they have now been ‘called in’ by local ward councillor Roger Avenin for consideration at a meeting of SGC’s Development Management Committee on 5th March 2020 [agenda].

For the latest information on this project, visit the Journal’s Planning Applications of Note webpage.

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  1. Very disappointing decision. It is as if we don’t have enough litter as it is already around BS and the nature reserve. These developments are bound to increase discarded rubbish from cars and general littering around bus stops. Only today I had to clear up discarded fast food rubbish from the Patchway Brook metro stop.

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