Local residents complain of being ‘treated with contempt’ by fast food giant, as legal proceedings conclude.
Fishponds residents and McDonald’s corporation are now waiting for the final decision on the company’s application to build a two-story restaurant and drive through on Fishponds Road, after an often fractious 10-day inquiry.
Local residents attending the inquiry complained that local opinion was “treated with contempt by McDonald’s” throughout the proceedings, according to Mike Jempson* and Peter Tickner, representing the NoMacInF campaign in their closing statement.
In their summation, Jempson and Tickner argued that the corporation’s representatives had created an atmosphere where,“it has often felt as if the local community are the ones at fault here, rather than a multi-national company with an annual marketing budget of $2.4billion a year, twice the annual budget of the World Health Organisation.”
“It has often felt as if the local community are the ones at fault here, rather than a multi-national company with an annual marketing budget of $2.4billion a year, twice the annual budget of the World Health Organisation.”
The fiercely opposed scheme was subject to a planning inquiry after the multi-national appealed against the council’s refusal of the plans in February 2015.
The local campaign, NoMacInF, achieved ‘rule 6’ status in the proceedings, putting them on an equal footing with the council defending the refusal and McDonald’s barrister who argued for it to be overturned. The inspector’s decision is expected within weeks, although he warned that it might be considered ‘political’ and could be delayed until after the general election.
Mr Jempson and Mr Tickner, locals who represented the NoMacInF campaign despite not being legal professionals, argued that the development will have an unacceptable impact on public health, transport, road safety, pollution and noise and light disturbance for the adjacent properties.
Central to the inquiry were questions of public health and the proximity of the development to schools and youth facilities, which are supposed to be subject to a buffer zone preventing takeaways opening within 400m, according to the council’s planning guidance.
Public health experts Professor Martin Caraher of City University and Dr Franklin Apfel, formerly of the World Health Organisation, gave evidence in support of local campaigners, who also won backing from local Labour and Conservative councillors and Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy.
McDonald’s argued that neither the madrassa – the religious school for youth in a nearby mosque – nor the All Saints Youth Club counted as “youth facilities”. They also dismissed public health arguments, stating that McDonald’s sold healthy foods and displayed clear nutritional information for their products.
McDonald’s claimed the drive-though restaurant would not exacerbate the traffic congestion on Fishponds Road, but both the council and the campaigners argue that the development will add to the transport problems in the area.
Clare Fowle, who lives in the road adjacent to the site, said: “My road has now become a cluster spot for accidents because there’s been five which, although it helps our case, is concerning for me, as a local resident.”
She added, “Anything that increases the risk in terms of traffic, the risk of accidents and also the risk of air pollution – why on earth would we want that on our doorstep?”
The impact on public transport was also highlighted by David Redgewell, regional director of Bus Users UK.
“Anything that increases the risk in terms of traffic, the risk of accidents and also the risk of air pollution – why on earth would we want that on our doorstep?”
“We are extremely concerned about the effects on the Showcase bus routes and the intensive service to UWE, and the effects on such a major transport corridor going to Fishponds, Staple Hill, Yate and Chipping Sodbury, and east Bristol,” he said. “And the effects of stop starting of cars trying to enter the site and the delays to the bus route in an area of the city which has no other public transport.”
If the inspector finds in favour of McDonald’s, the multi-national fast food chain claimed it will spend £3million transforming the site, and could be open for business by Christmas.
*Disclosure: Mike Jempson is also on the Cable’s board of directors.
From NoMacInF’s summing up:
“If childhood obesity is a condition likely to extend into adulthood, so is the brand loyalty with which McDonald’s groom and target their market.”
“Bristol City Council’s 2020 target for improving air quality locally is unlikely to be met if this appeal is granted.”
“We would invite the inspector to discount the testimony of [McDonald’s obesity expert] Dr Capehorn. How could anyone trust a ‘hired gun’ who is prepared to trumpet the assertions of his client as if they were gospel, without conducting his own independent research?
“He repeatedly misrepresented findings of major studies and denied the validity of scientific evidence showing strong evidence of negative impacts on health related to the proximity and concentration of fast food restaurants and outlets.
“We were very surprised that his views were NOT evidence-based but reflected a strong and classical ‘hazard merchant framing’ that emphasised individual responsibility (as for tobacco use, guns, fast food choice) and denies the need for societal protections from hazardous products and behaviours.”