Information provided by the McLibel Support Campaign

Campaign for Stricter Planning Controls on Hot Food Take Aways


28th November 2003

The Government has announced its intention to increase planning controls on hot food takeaways. At present, all food and drink outlets are classed within planning rules as the same thing (known as Use Class A3), which means that McDonald’s can convert, for example, pubs into a fast food outlets without any need for planning permission.

The Government is going to change this situation, and create three new separate food and drink categories - restaurants and cafes, pubs and bars, and hot food takeaways. This means that any hot food takeaway will require planning permission (unless the site is already a hot food takeaway), and so local people will be able to participate in the planning decision.

This is a long overdue and very welcome change. For far too long, McDonald’s have had an unfettered right to convert any type of food and drink outlet to a fast food restaurant, regardless of the impact on the local community.

The new regulations will be in force from next summer (2004). The minister's announcement can be read here.

Well done to everyone who wrote letters and campaigned for change. Your voice has made a difference!


September 2001

Under current planning regulations in England, McDonald's can (and do) buy up pubs (or any other food and drink outlet) and convert them into fast food restaurants without any need for planning permission. This is because all food and drink outlets, including pubs, are classified as the same thing (known as A3 Use Class).

The Molly Maguires campaign in Harrow demonstrates not only that Class A3 is a loophole but also how it can be abused by McDonald's and those who wish to sell their A3 sites to them.

Following campaigns by community groups, complaints from local authorities and concerns voiced by MPs over a period of years, the government has agreed to review these regulations (known as Use Class Orders).

A study commissioned by the Department for Transport and Local Government Regions (DTLR) recommends that hot food take aways should be in a Use Class of their own. If implemented, this would mean that all future McDonald's restaurants (or any other hot food take away) would require planning permission. This will give local communities a voice on where fast food take aways can locate and the conditions under which they might operate.

The full report is published on the DTLR's website

A consultation process will now take place over many months, and the fast food (and possibly brewing) industry will fight these recommendations and put pressure on the government to 'bury' them.

To ensure this doesn't happen:

  • Write to the DTLR, supporting the change, and ask for your letter to be included as part of the consultation process.
  • Lobby your MP asking him / her to make sure that this change is heard by Parliament and implemented.

We recommend that letters should focus on the planning concerns about hot food take aways, such as increased traffic, road & pedestrian safety, location next to schools (road safety - don’t go for healthy eating issues on this one) or other sensitive sites, noise and light pollution suffered by local residents. If the campaign for change is seen as anti-McDonald’s or anti-capitalist then this will have the opposite effect - planning authorities (DTLR and MPs) will be very likely to reject the change on these grounds. For the DTLR’s address and some typical wording, please see the following example letter.

This is the opportunity to curtail unfettered fast food restaurant expansion. Let the government know that you want this change - now's our chance - let's go for it!