Another Residents' Victory

McDonald’s Denied Big 'M' on pole

Hadleigh, Essex

7th March 2003

In May 2002 McDonald’s applied to Castle Point Borough Council for planning permission to turn a disused garage site into a ‘restaurant’ and drive through. The site is in the centre of Hadleigh and opposite a grade 1 listed Church.

There was a lot of opposition to the plans and many people wrote to the Director of Planning opposing the plans. There was also a petition submitted with almost 300 signatures.

The council Planning Committee met in June 2002 and decided, due to the scale of opposition within the community, the decision should be deferred to a full Council Meeting.

Despite continued opposition the Council decided on 8th July to grant the planning permission to McDonald’s.
The reasons for this were that there appeared to be no ‘planning’ grounds to deny the permission.

  • The garage site already had A3 planning permission.
  • The possibility of increased traffic and congestion was not believed to be significant by Essex County Council who maintains the highways - the local residents questioned the validity of the Traffic Impact Assessment that McDonald’s submitted, which was full of percentages and comparisons with an ‘average’ petrol filling station which it stated was comparable to a McDonald’s, no specific mention of Hadleigh and its own already large traffic problems.
  • The 13th Century listed church directly opposite, less than 100m across a one-way road, was not considered significant enough either, despite the council’s local plan stating that when dealing with a listed building, the surroundings and the “townscape” as a whole must be taken into account and that planning application should be refused if the proposal would impinge on the listed building and its surroundings.

Residents and Councilors who were against the McDonald’s were up against the council’s Director of Planning who consistently claimed that none of the reasons above were relevant. With the Director of Planning advising the council to grant permission, the Councilors felt that they had no choice but to grant permission. They would have no chance at appeal if they went against their ‘experts’ opinion and they were certain that McDs would appeal.

However, McDonald’s had not included the signs and lighting in the original application……

In august 2002, as the ‘restaurant’ neared completion, they submitted 3 separate applications for signs and lighting:

  1. Illuminated letters on roof spelling McDonalds and 2 illuminated golden arches.
  2. Illuminated big M on 6m pole.
  3. Directional sign on 6.1m pole.

Subsequently they altered the sizes of these signs, possibly to appear to be reasonable and willing to compromise. The directional sign was only about 1m high and so was not an issue to the public.

The main opposition was to the M on a pole, which still measured 5.4m including the sign on top. It was felt to be out of place in the area and was only suitable for an out of town or motorway site, not a town centre location and definitely not infront of the historic church. A public meeting was held and McDonald’s were invited, but they did not turn up.

Most of the councilors did not want the sign, but again they were up against the Director of Planning whose advice was to grant permission. The application was deferred a couple of times for site visit and discussions with McDonalds.

Eventually a decision was made in November and the Planning committee granted permission for no.3 the directional sign but refused permission on no.1 the roof lettering (it was felt that the M was too big) and no.2 the Big M on a Pole.

The breakthrough that gave the councilors the courage to go against the advice of the ‘expert’ planning officer was a copy of the Inspector’s decision letter of the McDonalds v. Bracknell Forest District Council appeal. Although the Inspector had allowed 3 out of 4 items to go forward in McDonald’s favour, the remaining one, the Big M on a Pole was upheld in the Council’s favour.

As expected McDonald’s lodged an appeal against Castle Point Council and the decision came through on 7th March 2003.

The Inspector granted McDonald’s the roof lettering but…..the Big M on the Pole was refused!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A great victory for the people of Hadleigh, although we have the McDonald’s we do not have their corporate sign hanging over our town centre.

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