Campaigners have been praised for a “big win” after they succeeded in stopping McDonald’s from opening a drive-thru near their local secondary school.
Hundreds of objections to the fast-food chain’s plan to open in Musselburgh were lodged with Scottish Ministers after it appealed against a council decision to refuse planning permission.
And after the Scottish Government Reporter dismissed the appeal this week, local politicians paid tribute to the community for its grassroots campaign.
Ward councillor Stuart Currie said: “This is a big win for Musselburgh.”
People power saw East Lothian Council reject the plans for the drive-thru next to the town’s Tesco store and, according to one councillor, a “180-second walk” from Musselburgh Grammar School.
And following the decision, local councillor Katie Mackie said: “I am so pleased the concerns of Musselburgh residents and local councillors have been heard and this appeal by McDonald’s has been dismissed.
“It was a ridiculous proposal and in my view should never have been considered. Thank goodness common sense has prevailed.”
The plans were originally called in for councillors to decide by councillor Currie in August last year when they were thrown out.
McDonald’s appealed to Scottish Ministers to overturn the decision however hundreds of objections were lodged, including representations from MPs and MSPs for the town.
East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill said the Reporter’s findings were a “welcome decision”.
He added: “This decision reflects the concerns of the community. The site was wholly unsuitable. It is right that public views have prevailed.”
Colin Beattie, Musselburgh and Midlothian MSP, said that there had been a “solid wall” of objections from the local community across the political spectrum.
He told the Reporter: “It is very clear that local residents are not in favour of this application and to go ahead with the proposals regardless would be a very unpopular decision.”
The Reporter visited the site of the proposed drive-thru and acknowledged witnessing first-hand the number of school pupils congregating at the adjoining Tesco store.
In an unusual step, he asked local police chief Neil Mitchell to give his view on the proposed fast-food branch.
Chief inspector Mitchell, area commander for Police Scotland told the Reporter: “Should the application be granted, we would expect to see a rise in complaints of anti-social behaviour and public nuisance.”
McDonald’s disputed the claims arguing antisocial behaviour was a “societal problem” and not linked to the restaurant chain and insisted the drive-thru location had not been chosen because of its proximity to the school.
In the end, the Reporter ruled that the weight of local concern and issues with traffic and council policy meant the appeal should be thrown out, ruling the economic benefits of the new business did not justify the “adverse impacts I have identified.”
Councillor Currie said: “When I called in the original application to the planning committee to decide I did so because of the damage I believed this location would have done to our town.
“I want to thank all those in our community who campaigned against this application.”
Fellow ward councillor John Williamson added: “This is great news for the many local organisations and individuals in Musselburgh who took the trouble to submit representations to the Reporter outlining their objections to the proposal.
“The unanimous decision of the Council Planning Committee to refuse the application has been vindicated.”
Story by local democracy reporter Marie Sharp