Hinchley Wood
Kinsgston, Surrey

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McDonald's Throws in the Towel!

Villagers' McDonald's Protest May Force New Law on Pubs

from The Independent, UK, 28 April 2000

Local Residents Celebrate 100 Days in Occupation 
of Proposed McDonald's Site

22nd March 1999

On Sunday 13th December local residents in Hinchley Wood, Surrey had taken action to stop their well-loved local pub from being turned into a McDonald's store. [See original report below for background details]. On March 23rd local campaigners, organised as Residents Against McDonald's (RAM), celebrated 100 days in continuous occupation of the pub's car park. Their campaign has been a tremendous success, forcing 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. 4,500 residents have now signed up to oppose the planned store.

 There have been 2 large public meetings organised by RAM - one in January in which 350 residents heckled and criticised McDonald's representatives who'd been invited to put the company line, and then another in March in which 200 local people packed into the local school to consolidate the campaign and plan further action. Plans include strengthening the phone-tree support network and increased staffing of the campaign office caravan in the car park, gardening improvements to the site, distributing their campaign posters and stickers widely (eg. 'On Yer Bike McDonald's', and 'Keep Hinchley Wood Mac Free'), and a sponsored walk and party on the 28th March to celebrate the 100 days anniversary.

 Shelley Maxwell, a representative of the embattled fast-food giant, has admitted that they would 'not rule out the possibility of selling the site if the right offer came in.'

 RAM have exposed the oppressive local planning laws in which companies can steamroller over the wishes of communities, and council's 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.

 On March 23rd a large coach load of RAM residents took their celebration/protest to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street demanding changes in the planning laws (eg. in the Food & Drink Licensing Laws, to distinguish between pubs and fast-food outlets), and handing in their 4,500-strong local petition.

 Meanwhile, the McLibel Support Campaign and the 'McSpotlight' website have circulated details of the Hinchley Wood campaign around the world, in particular to the many other residents' groups opposing plans for new McDonald's stores. It is hoped that Hinchley Wood will join the growing list of places in which local communities have successfully defended themselves. 

Contact RAM: The Caravans, Hinchley Wood Pub, 2 Manor Rd North, Hinchley Wood, Surrey KT10 0SH [Email messages can be passed on by us: mclibel@globalnet.co.uk]

Hinchley Wood Background Piece

2,500 residents have pledged their opposition to the proposed opening of a new McDonald's store on the site of a well loved pub 'The Hinchley Wood', in Hinchley Wood, Kingston, Surrey - just outside London. 

On Sunday 13th December - a protest bus and a van occupied the car park on the site, backed by about 100 local visitors during Monday 14th. Their banner, draped for all to see, read '2500 Local Residents Say NO To McDonald's!'. 

The pub is virtually the only local focal point for the community in the neighbourhood and residents are outraged that this is being taken away from them for the benefit of a junk food multinational chain. And indeed, a company which has been found by the High Court to be exploiting children, paying low wages, and deceiving the public by promoting their high fat products as nutritious. 

The residents are fed up with their previous protests being ignored by local Councillors and planners and have enthusiastically backed the continuing occupation. The occupation seems secure at the moment, but it is expected that there will be moves to instigate legal proceedings to try to eventually obtain an eviction order. 

The site, currently owned by a brewery, was to have been handed over to McDonald's at 2pm on Monday but McDonald's seem to have gone to ground in the light of this week's developments. In contrast, local and national media have attended and noted the occupation. 

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 (such as at 2 sites in Hornsey and E.Finchley, North London). 

But many are fed up with the planning process and Council politics stacked in favour of big business. The Hinchley Wood occupation is a big step forward in the UK, and will give great encouragement to all those seeking effective ways to defend their communities and their interests as residents, in the face of the invasion of profiteering chains. 

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