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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 16/06/00
Residents defeat McDonald's after mammoth 552-day occupation
On Sunday 13th December 1998 local residents in Hinchley Wood, Surrey moved caravans on to the car park of their well-loved local pub ['The Hinchley Wood'] which had been leased by McDonald's - their aim was to occupy the site and stop it from being turned into a new store. Yesterday, after exactly 18 months of controversy and determined opposition, McDonald's threw in the towel and handed back the lease on the pub to the original owners.
Tomorrow, June 16th 2000, after an incredible 552-day, 24hr-a-day continuous occupation (possibly the longest ever protest occupation of its kind) local villagers organised as residents Against McDonald's (RAM) will move their caravans off the site as they celebrate a historic victory.
A LONG AND DETERMINED CAMPAIGN
Their campaign had at first forced McDonald's onto the defensive, stopping any work on the site, achieving local and national publicity, and galvanising the support of the local residents' associations and the neighbourhood in general.
RAM had organised large public meetings, a protest march to Downing Street, dozens of editions of their newsletter delivered door-to-door in the village, a phone-tree support network, the distribution of campaign posters and stickers (eg. 'On Yer Bike McDonald's', and 'Keep Hinchley Wood Mac Free'), sponsored walks, fetes and parties, and support for campaigning residents in other regions of the country - and throughout the last year and a half the staffing of the campaign office caravan in the car park.
RAM exposed the oppressive local planning laws in which companies can steamroller over the wishes of communities, and councils allow only very narrow grounds for objection (eg. increased traffic problems, design etc) which fail to address communities' concerns over the quality of their lives and environment. Hence profiteering business chains continue to invade neighbourhoods, often replacing green spaces and local facilities with their standardised, mediocre products, backed up by marketing hype.
RAM'S NATIONAL SURVEY
residents are up against current planning laws [known as ‘A3 Use Class’] which automatically dismiss objections to the transformations of local pubs into fast food stores by refusing to recognise this as a ‘change of use’. As a consequence, the Hinchley Wood residents have been contacting other campaigners around the country in order to mount a campaign for the reform of such planning laws. The UK Government Department of Transport and the Regions have now announced a review of these laws. The Hinchley Wood residents decided to conduct their own review by contacting the planning departments of hundreds of local authorities about this problem. Their report [see www.mcspotlight.org] was released in April 2000. It summarises the numerous responses and concludes there is widespread concern including at the official level over this issue. The Hinchley Wood campaigners also analysed company statistics on the development of McDonald’s stores throughout the UK which showed that their expansion increasingly relies on the development of new sites outside the usual High Street locations. Hence the threat to local community pubs is no coincidence.
All over the country, whenever the global hamburger corporation plans to open a new store, local residents saturate planning committees with objections, and organise angry public meetings and protests. In many instances they have succeeded in getting planning permission refused, or forced McDonald's to abandon their plans.
Faced with widespread community-based opposition to the opening of new stores, McDonald’s tactics seem to favour the purchase of pubs precisely because of the ludicrous ‘A3’ planning guidelines which enable them to avoid the usual planning applications and objections. This controversy therefore is one that strongly affects and angers local communities throughout the UK.
AN INSPIRATION TO residents EVERYWHERE
Meanwhile, the McLibel Support Campaign (who had advised Hinchley Wood residents from before they decided to occupy the site) and the 'McSpotlight' website have made available details of the Hinchley Wood campaign around the world, in particular to the many other residents' groups opposing plans for new McDonald's stores. Hinchley Wood now joins the growing list of places in which local communities have successfully defended themselves.
We send our solidarity to all those standing up to powerful institutions which seek to dominate our lives and our communities.
The McLibel Support Campaign