Last month, An Bord Pleanála gave permission for a McDonald's drive-thru restaurant to open in the Blacklion Centre in Greystones.
The decision has proven controversial in the area, not least because it's located close to three schools – and because it came in the immediate wake of the Government's stated intention to ban fast-food restaurants in the vicinity of schools.
Local TD and Social Democrats leader Stephen Donnelly explains why the people of Greystones are not okay with this decision.
There’s no problem with McDonalds opening up in Greystones.
There is, for me, and for many parents in the town, a problem with it opening up right beside three of our schools.
Just last year the government was considering a 1.5km ‘no-fry zone’ around schools for any new fast-food outlets.
The 2013 national guidelines for local areas plans state the following:
“…planning also has an important role to play in promoting and facilitating active and healthy living patterns for local communities. For example, the local area plan can promote active and healthier lifestyles by ensuring that… exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar is reduced such as the careful consideration of the appropriateness and or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.”
And yet, An Bord Pleanála has just given permission for such an outlet to be located approximately 100m from the nearest school, with another two schools within about 400m.
Come fry with me: McDonalds will be near three schools
Many parents in Greystones have been in touch to express dismay at An Bord Pleanála’s decision.
Just this morning, one parent told me they were concerned that the smell of cooking might stretch across to the sports grounds and the school buildings (I have no basis to either agree or disagree with this, to be clear).
Other parents have said they’re worried about potential health implications (again, to be absolutely fair, studies have been referenced whereby the proximity of fast food outlets to schools is correlated with higher levels of obesity and type two diabetes – but I have not seen any primary data/research on this).
The main argument posited for allowing McDonalds is the creation of new jobs, but this is not an economically sound claim.
Firstly, the outlet could simply open elsewhere in the town. Secondly, it is unlikely that total spend will significantly increase, meaning that jobs created would be at the cost of other jobs in other outlets.
At this point, it's hard to see how the planning decision can be reversed, as An Bord Pleanála is the highest planning authority in the Republic. The final course of action, therefore, might be for a direct appeal to McDonalds management, from as many people in the town as possible, to ask that they open up somewhere else in the town.
Then, perhaps, we might start lovin’ it.
Stephen Donnelly is a TD for Wicklow-East Carlow, and is joint-leader of the Social Democrats party. This post was originally published on his website, stephendonnelly.ie and is republished here with his permission.