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23/03/00 . Author unknown . London Evening Standard . UK
McDONALD'S today appeared to have caved into community pressure...
McDONALD'S today appeared to have caved into community pressure when it put up for sale a property at the centre of Britain's longest campaign against plans to turn a pub into a fast food restaurant.
The move was prompted after Government planning inspectors turned down a crucial application to widen the access for vehicles at the Hinchley Wood pub where residents have mounted a permanent protest for nearly 500 days.
The battle of Hichley Wood - a village near Esher - has come to symbolise fears that McDonald's, with 1,116 branches in Britain, is beginning to monopolise the restaurant market, particularly in the suburbs. More than 37 communities have lost their local to the Multinational, and others are earmarked for conversion.
The dispute began in December 1998 when residents parked a coach outside the entrance of the pub stopping builders reaching the site. The campaign culminated last year in a march to Downing Street where members of RAM (Residents Against McDonald's) handed in a petition with 4,500 signatories.
Significantly, the campaign has inspired the Government to look again at a loophole in planning law where pubs can be converted into fast food outlets without permission from the local authority. "We're not saying it's over yet," said Steve Weltman, founder of RAM. "But we're very pleased with the lastest turn of events. This has never been a campaign against *McDonald's. We are talking about the destruction of a local community focused on the local pub."
McDonald's spokesman Robert Parker confirmed the site is for sale, but added "We are keeping our options open which could mean that if a suitable purchaser doesn't come forward we may still seek to turn it into a restaurant** albeit one with narrower access."
(See also McSpotlight Campaigns Section for further info)