Kings Cross McDonald's Backgrounder

On Wed 6th December 1995 a McDonald's was opened at Kings Cross in London. The opening was against the wishes of the local community and was successfully disrupted by the local neighbourhood association and the McLibel Suppport Campaign. The new store is just 200 metres from the London Greenpeace office..

Burger Bulldozing

Campaign Against McPost Office

When McDonald's applied for planning permission to open an outlet in half of the Post Office building (opposite Kings Cross station), a 1,330-name petition against it was organised by local residents with the support of local MPs Glenda Jackson and Frank Dobson. They were concerned about the inevitable increase in litter, smells, noise and traffic. "A lot of locals were against it because all that's coming to Kings Cross at the moment is take-aways and burger bars" says Harvey Bass, vice-chair of the Kings Cross Neighbourhood Association. The local newspaper ran with the headline: "We don't want a McPost Office!"

Bribes to the Community

Camden Council's Development Committee initially rejected McDonald's application, concluding that a 26th burger bar in the area was unnecessary and would "add to environmental problems - to the detriment of the quality of life for residents and workers alike". However, by the beginning of this year, the councillors on the Committee had reversed their original decision and given McDonald's the go-ahead. The Committee's second report records how since the first refusal McDonald's had offered to provide "upwards of a hundred full or part-time jobs to locals". Also recorded is McDonald's offer to give money to local charities and sports equipment to local youth clubs, provide coffee mornings for local people and organise 'business days' for the development of contacts between businessmen and local schools. "Bribes to the community" is how Harvey Bass describes it. The Committee's report states that, when asked if they would include any of these 'advantages' (particularly the local employment policy) as part of the legal agreement, McDonald's did not wish to do so.

Public Enquiry Threatened

McDonald's also threatened to apply for a public enquiry in the event of losing its appeal. If it went to a public enquiry and the Council lost, it would have cost the Council a lot of money. "McDonald's would win," says Bass, "they have their ways". In the face of that threat, the councillors backed down.

Money, Money, Money

"If there are concerns in an area about a restaurant opening then meetings would be held with residents," claims Mike Love (McDonald's Head of Communications, and previously the Conservative Party constituency manager for Margaret Thatcher), "That is a mater of routine in the very few cases where there are local objections." According to Harvey Bass, McDonald's never put their case to either the Kings Cross Neighbourhood Association or the Kings Cross Partnership, a quarterly liason meeting between localpolice, residents, councillors and businesses. "They don't deal with people, they just deal with council officers," says Bass. "It's just money, money, money with them. The community didn't want them but to me it's a simple thing - multinationals get what they want in the end, don't they?"

Widespread Local Opposition

A large number of proposed McDonald's stores are opposed by local residents, and some residents have been successful in preventing stores being opened. For example this Summer, residents in East Finchley (North London) won the fight to prevent McDonald'sopening a 190-seat store at their UK/European Headquarters, when Barnet Council denied planning permission. Also recently, residents in Leicester, Mile End (East London), and Nottingham have been victorious.

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