MUNCHING THE MEADOW

McDonalds on the Meadow – the Burgermeister withdraws (updated 31 January 2021)

Brown field or meadow site of proposed McDonalds.
The meadow to be obliterated photo by Amy Wernham

McDonald’s had plans to build a new restaurant in Ashford on Bridge Road,  facing one of the busiest roundabouts in town. No longer! If planning had been approved, it would have been the fourth McD site in the area.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We are delighted to announce that since the original publication of this article, and more importantly, a major local campaign in opposition, an environmental tragedy has been averted! We have received a message from Vernon Seagar (see below), as follows:

It looks like the lovers of McDonald’s cuisine are going to be upset as it seems McD’s have withdrawn their application to build a restaurant on the piece of ground laying wild between Bridge Road and the tank roundabout in Chart Road  On the other hand, the wildlife can enjoy their habitat uninterrupted for [at least] a little longer.  The application also raised a lot of opposition from locals about the amount of infill building being approved, resulting in every piece of green space being built over.  Every good reason for residents to get involved and take some control over our neighbourhood.

Such is the power of local campaigning!

Local residents are furious about the sheer amount of developments planned near the congested ‘tank roundabout’ in the coming years. This would not be the first time that Ashford saw traffic chaos as a result of poor planning. 

If the site is approved, the new McDonald’s will offer at least 65 jobs, many of these will go to the younger generation who have been hit hard by unemployment in the pandemic. 

Business owner Allan Morris of Bridge Road, Ashford is concerned that he “will be massively inconvenienced during construction as well as after completion.” 

He said: “This will bring constant trash issues, constant air pollution and constant noise pollution to the businesses on Bridge Road. Whilst it might create a handful of jobs, it will do nothing to resolve obesity issues. It certainly will not do anything except contribute to congestion and with the 24 hour outpouring of rancid fat smell, it will do nothing to assist with air quality.”

There are several projects scheduled for this stretch of road over the next few years. One of which is the much needed dual carriage way along Chart Road on the A28 which has already been delayed until at least 2022. 

Too many developments

Planning permission has also been granted to repurpose the old Lipscomb Fiat garages into 65 new affordable apartments just off the ‘tank roundabout’. Further along on Templar Way plans have been submitted for another housing development just south of Waitrose. 

The Kent County Council Highways has raised concerns after a traffic survey of the roundabout concluded the proposal would cause “unacceptable impact”. But residents are not just worried about the impact of traffic on the area, they fear the increased noise and air pollution that comes with construction and the visual damage to the roundabout. 

Emily Groom of Hornbeam Close, Ashford said: “Traffic is awful on this roundabout, you’ve already allowed 65 new flats to be built and this would just congest the area even further. Not every bit of spare land needs to be developed, some of it can be left alone so that we have at least a bit of green to look at in Ashford.”

The proposed location is an area of greenery which can be seen from the roundabout. It is wild and home to flowers and plants. Environmentalists say these open spaces could be put to better use by planting extra wildlife to encourage pollinators to settle in and provide extra habitat for surrounding animals.

But one person in favour of the project, Mark Piddock of Faversham Road, Ashford said: “This utilises unused wasteland and provides more jobs for local residents too. What’s not to like.”

An ecological report concluded that there were no protected species and no suitable habitat for protected species on the site. But it did make recommendations to mitigate the loss of habitat such as bird and bat boxes and state provisions for bumble bee nest boxes. It is unlikely that these suggestions will be implemented around the restaurant due to health and safety regulations. 

The nearby borough of Maidstone has invested in these open spaces with their ‘Go Green Go Wild’ scheme created by Maidstone’s parks and open spaces team. The project aims to teach people to protect nature in their local community. Rather than building on top of these spaces, the borough has transformed seven of them into wildflower meadows to increase biodiversity.

Brown field or meadow site of proposed McDonalds.
Site for new Macdonalds

But local resident Vernon Seager of Sackville Crescent, Ashford explains that the land was always intended for industrial use. He said: “In the next two years or so the potential for traffic delays at this junction and Chart Road are considerable but a lot of people like McDonald’s and it must now be considered as an amenity of the area. The majority verdict of the Central Community Forum was to object. My personal view hovers on the side of approving.”

Local MP Damian Green is also in favour of the site due to the promise of investment and jobs in the town. These jobs come at a time of mass redundancies, furloughed workers and raising unemployment. Coronavirus restrictions have hit the south-east particularly hard and Ashford has been in strict restrictions since November with many business struggling to stay afloat let alone expand. 

In a statement from McDonald’s the company has said they will offer training and development through an internal management programme and an opportunity to gain recognised qualifications in numeracy, literacy and hospitality. 

But frustrated residents think the plans should be stopped. Barry Lapthorn of John Dutton Way, Ashford said if they are approved “it would be the most thick-headed decision ever made by the planning committee.”