Our Town Hall correspondent KEN LEE on a council planning decision that backs the interests of residents against big business
Croydon Council’s planning department is capable of saying “no” to inappropriate developments after all, if a decision handed down over controversial plans to open a 24/7 McDonald’s takeaway in Upper Norwood is anything to go by.
The globally dominant fast-food chain submitted a change of use application for 46-48 Westow Street, part of the characterful Crystal Palace Triangle, which caused great concern for many locals who live in or close to the two nearby conservation areas.
And at one site, it looked like the giant golden arches were about to replace them.
Hostility to the scheme from locals centred around the location close to schools, and to the nature of the takeaways-only outlet proposed.
McDonald’s scheme was clearly aimed at the Uber-ised delivery market, and would rely heavily on zero-hours moped and motorbike riders whizzing back and forth around the already busy one-way system every hour of the day, and night.
As one resident put it: “This is not a restaurant or, in any conventional understanding of the term, a ‘takeaway’. It is a ‘dark kitchen’, a 24-hour food manufacturing and distribution centre, which is better-suited to an industrial estate.”
But in an officer-delegated decision – that is, the matter never got as far as the planning committee itself – McDonald’s application was refused. There had been an overwhelming welter of opposition to the scheme, with 18 letters received by the council in support of the application, and 868 against.
One Labour councillor for the ward, Stephen Mann, announced the news to residents via social media this morning, saying, “I wanted to inform you all that the McDonald’s planning application has been refused.
“Obviously this doesn’t stop them coming back for another application or appealing this decision, but I want to thank all of you that played your part in ensuring this inappropriate scheme was refused at this stage.
“We received a record number of objections for Croydon (double what the two Queen’s Hotel schemes received put together)… Thank you all for your hard work fighting for your community!”
Significant in the proposals being blocked were wide-ranging objections raised by the local police that claimed the 24/7 delivery hub would increase the likelihood of gangs and crime.
The police’s objections were summarised by the council as “likely to give rise to gang activity”; “potential for increased rates of robbery”; “already anti-social behaviour problems which would worsen”; “lack of parking could lead to conflicts”; “potential for more road accidents, especially involving scooters”.
It is a damning litany which could jeopardise the prospects for the scheme completely.
In a letter to McDonald’s consultants outlining the reasons for refusal, the council said that the planned outlet “would create unacceptable levels of noise and disturbance for nearby residents, harming living conditions”.
The planners added: “There are also police concerns due to the proposal causing an increased likelihood of anti-social behaviour and other crime in the vicinity. The proposal is therefore not considered to comply with Local Plan (2018) policy SP4.”
Other reasons for refusal given by the planners look almost as if they had actually bothered to read some of the public objections, too. They cited “inadequate parking facilities” which “would have negative implications for highway safety”. This, the planners wrote, “is therefore not considered to comply with Local Plan (2018) policy DM 29”.
Significantly, McDonald’s and their consultants, perhaps a touch arrogantly, had not bothered to enter into any pre-application discussions.
The council clearly anticipates that their refusal will not be an end to the matter. “The council is ready to enter into discussions with the applicants to assist in the preparation of a new planning application,” they state.
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