The McDonald's Drive-Thru' Proposal at Blackhorse Road Station Car-Park was Turned Down Unanimously.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WHO'VE WORKED SO HARD FOR THIS!
See below for history
| Dear friends, |
We are approaching the second anniversary of the "McBurger Off!" Campaign and I have just heard this week that the LBWF's Planning Dept have almost finalised the plans to put forward to the Council's Planning Implementation Sub-Committee (chaired by the beautiful and warm-hearted Sally Buckley). This item is likely to come up in April. I'll keep you all posted.
It will probably be a very long and technical Officer's Report, with a recommendation to accept the plans subject to more S106 Planning Gain agreements and ridiculous conditions than you could possibly imagine - unfortunately these will have been agreed beforehand between McD and the Planners, so McD will probably be willing to go along with them. PISC has delegated powers, so this doesn't have to be ratified by full Council - we only get one bite at the cheeseburger, oops I mean cherry.
Please let me know if you have any other suggestions, but I suspect the best way to deal with this is to lobby Councillors to vote against the wretched scheme anyway, or failing that to move amendments to officers' proposals to toughen it up and cost McDonald's a real packet (don't cry they can afford it). The best strategy to go for might perhaps be to demand a Public Inquiry because of the scale of the scheme and its effects on a major traffic crossroads and a tube/rail station. So much for road traffic reduction (whatever happened to that? - does anyone know what has become of Tom Brake's ten-minute Bill by the way?).
The PISC consists of five Labour Councillors: Sally Buckley (Chair), Narinder Singh Matharoo (Vice-Chair), Shameem Highfield, Clyde Loakes and Mohammed Fazlur Rahman. The drive-thru' is in Lloyd Park Ward where Matharoo is a (good-as-nonexistent) Councillor. He will not ring people back, reply to letters or put anything in writing. He has told me that he will not discuss the issue, and also that he has not looked at the plans nor will he do so until they are produced for the PISC meeting. Given that he is a self-confessed waste of space, I'll try to get one of the other two Lloyd Park Councillors - Martin O'Connor or Evan Jones - to come to the meeting and put our point of view. If you have any mates in Lloyd Park ward please ask them to also contact Evan or Martin.
I've also found that David Blunt (Labour) in High Street Ward is pretty much our way inclined, and he's been very helpful. What we don't know about of course is the famous Labour Whip - they did vote in favour of the drive-thru in Chingford.
There are two Conservatives on PISC: Derek Arnold and J.F. Walker - they can probably be easily persuaded to vote our way. Bob Carey is the only Lib Dem on the committee, from neighbouring Higham Hill ward, and he had jolly well better vote against it after all the letters I've had from his colleagues as good as pledging to lie down in front of bulldozers (well, not quite that extreme, but I think we've got at least one vote going our way for definite!).
Unfortunately, without the Labour vote we're going to lose it, so we have got to make sure they either turn it down or call for a Public Inquiry - I'm assuming here that they can ask for it to go to an Inquiry, could someone please enlighten me as to whether they can in fact do this or whether that is only an option open to McD in the event that they are turned down?
As we learned at Sewardstone Road, Labour would rather have the McExcrescence if it will save the cost to them of holding an Inquiry (I gather the Chingford Inquiry cost about £120,000 - the same amount as the annual maintenance budget the Council are going to have to pay from our council taxes for the Leyton Relief Road, by an odd coincidence - but that figure was given to me by a Labour councillor and could have been artificially inflated!).
Meantime, next Friday - the 28th February - is the second anniversary of McDonald's submitting their planning application...
A Brief History of the "McBurger Off!" CampaignMcDonald's put in a planning application to the London Borough of Waltham Forest on the 28th February 1997. This was a proposal to put in a drive-thru' burger "restaurant" on about a third of our local station's car park.
There was a glitch with the dates on the notices that were put up around the site, which were different from the date on the notice in the local newspaper and the letters sent to [some] local residents, so I rang up the Planning Department and was able to get the whole thing re-issued which bought us a few weeks. In the meantime I organised a letter (which I paid for myself out of my dole money!) to distribute around the local area. Other local residents - and a very hon mensh to Ray Dudley, usually kept busy as one of the volunteers on the local hospital's radio station - had the same idea. Soon word was buzzing around the area about what was about to happen and the first press release was issued, knocked out on my decrepit and long-gone Amstrad PCW!
A hastily-formed "McBurger Off" campaign, about ten of us at first, local residents and shopkeepers, also then started off a petition. Later other people joined in and helped - Mel and Kev were a great find, their first involvement in any sort of community action, totally enthusiastic and brilliant and very hardworking, got loads of signatuires, leaflet drops, letters, you name it. Other people who got involved came from local animal rights and environmental groups - we were lucky that the campaign started a few weeks before the end of the Mclibel trial and there was quite a bit in the news about that as well as heightened awareness amongst seasoned campaigners. This was all a great boost to local residents and shopkeepers - of course most of the McGarbage is deposited about half a mile away, not in the charmed circle of the famous litter patrols!
We contacted Planning Aid for London and of course the McLibel Campaign, but such was the strength of local feeling and the enthusiasm of our doorknockers and those who sttod for hours at Blackhorse Road station and the car-park entrance we had already collected nearly 700 signatures before both organisations contacted us a few days later. McLibel were particularly helpful, ringing and sending e-mailed information as well as great posters and ideas for campaign materials, and told us to start by doing what we'd already done! but went on to give loads of good advice on where to go next. PAL were difficult to get engaged at first, but once they finally got someone on the case his letter on traffic impact and implications of overdevelopment formed the basis for holding the thing up for several months.
The proposed site is adjacent to the part of Walthamstow Marshes which consists mainly of reservoirs and is a nature reserve, birdwatching area and heronry. Several groups who put in submissions stressed the problem of litter and lighting for this environmentally -sensitive area. I have recently learnt (somewhat obliquely) that this aspect of our campaign was thought by the Planning Department to have been "overstressed." I suspect that this is because such considerations are given an unreasonably low weighting in determining planning applications for new developments, a balance which I suggest needs to change and which we ought to be campaigning more vociferaously about. Although the in current planning law the presumption is supposed to be always in favour of development, Strategic Planning Guidelines in fact suggest rating Metropolitan Open Land as equivalent to designated Green Belt land, where this does not apply (although the reverse is not necessarily true!!).
The McBurger Off! Campaign worked hard at developing a PR capacity and made the front page of the local paper on a couple of occasions. When our petition was handed in (with the added advantage that I handed it in with some local *children* whose parents run conventional cafes and sandwich/snack shops in the area) it was covered by the paper with a photograph! Kids are always photogenic and a photo in the paper is worth ten column inches!
We were less successful at getting a letter-writing campaign going; the letters page of a local paper is usually the most read page after the front page, so this was a bit of a drawback. The real problem was largely that we were never going to get a lively controversy going in a situation where the population was 730:6 against the McDonald's. There was only ever one pro-McD letter published, on the usual right-wing tack of "freedom of choice"; no-one locally knew who the putative author was and the letter was hardly worth replying to.
As a result of the PAL submission and the large number of letters of opposition received, Borough Planning Control Officers told McD to go away and do some more homework on the traffic impacts etc. The whole thing then quickly died down. Partly this was because of an impending local Inquiry into another local McDonald's outlet.
At that time, Waltham Forest had a hung council (Labour the largest group with LibDems and Tories about even) and - through a coalition of Anti-McDonald's LibDem and Conservative Councillors (the Labour Group actually asked to be put on record as supporting McD!!!) - local residents had forced a Public Inquiry into an illegally-constructed McD drive-thru' in Chingford (they had taken over a pub and put in a drive- thru without planning permission, damaging several TPOed trees in the process). I think McD wanted to see how the Inquiry went before proceeding with the Forest Road proposal.
The Inspector into the Chingford case amazingly found in favour of McDonald's in record time. This dismayed everyone locally who had been fighting the proposals. McBurger Off! got a lot of help just after this from the Chingford protest group.
As usual, of course, McD had put in two parallel-track applications on the station car-park application, and they then decided to go to a Public Inquiry on the grounds of non-determination (i.e. the matter hadn't come before the Council's Plamnning Implementation Committee for decision) on the second one. The first proposal was quietly left in abeyance whilst we all awaited a supposed Inquiry in December 1997. That was then put back to May, which was annoying as a lot of us were very involved in the Local Elections with which the dates coincided. McD then asked again for the Inquiry to be deferred because they couldn't get the services of the QC they wanted to represent them. It was put back several weeks, and apparently the DETR were rather annoyed about it.
We then called a public meeting in June, because at the same time we found that a property development outfit called Hardaker's were trying to get planning permission granted on the "Victory service station" site opposite the station car-park, where the present petrol station owners are planning to retire next year. One of my local (Labour) Councillors told me that McDonald's are also behind this. However, the property department at McD have said they know nothing about it, and a mole at the Town Hall has said that there are two possible interested parties, neither of which is McD who would not find the site large enough. (I never believe anything Labour Councillors tell me anyway).
The Public Inquiry has never taken place, however. Since June the second McD carpark proposal has been in abeyance; it was to have come before what is now the DETR in September but a decision on whether to go ahead and hold it was put off again until December 1998, and it has now been "postponed indefinitely."
In the meantime, the second proposal was brought forward again. I've never seen the full revised proposals, but luckily we now have a LibDem councillor in the adjacent ward who is utterly terrific at getting plans and stuff for us (the three Labour Councillors in my ward promise all sorts of stuff and do f*** all, though to be fair the Labour ones in the adjacent ward do actually do something - albeit probably only because they lost a seat to the LDs at the last election and want it back!!) and I have got copies of the revised plans. I'm currently trying to get a copy of the Traffic Impact Assessment, which I've never seen.
Anyway, we had been expecting the second proposal to finally come up before the Planning Implementation Committee in December (1998), and then by chance in November I was given a load of stuff by a friend which included the Public Inquiry findings into the "junction improvements" to be carried out here by the station about ten years ago. Amongst other interesting stuff, and good details of pedestrian and traffic flows, the report listed all sorts of reasons why we couldn't have a pedestrian crossing - which we'd been asking for as a possible alternative to the all-red traffic light phase we'd wanted which the DoT wouldn't let us have - in exactly the place where McD want their filter lane and traffic-lighted turning with pedestrian crossings.
I faxed the relevant two pages through to the Planning Department and the next thing I knew McD's proposal for the car park was off the PIC Agenda, and I gather it isn't even going to be on the Agenda for the Planning Implementation Committee for January.
In fact I've been told it may not even be on their Agenda for February!
Either way, we have held the bastards up for two whole years without the proposal even getting as far as the Planning Committee and we are therefore hoping to have a two-year birthday celebratory bash.