Plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school have provoked a storm of protest.
Feelings are so high it has caused a city councillor to stand down from the planning committee which will decide whether to give it the go ahead – to help organise protests against it.
David Pearmain, head teacher of Kenton School, where around 2,000 pupils study, has submitted a lengthy objection to the city council in which he concluded: “For the sake of our children’s health and safety, please do not approve this application.”
Coun David Stockdale, who represents the neighbouring Blakelaw ward, has taken the rare step of “recluse” – voluntary exclusion – because he felt so strongly against the application.
It is for a two-storey drive-through outlet on the old Crofters Lodge pub site at the junction of Kenton Lane and Ponteland Road.
“On the committee you have to be open minded about applications you consider,” he explained. “I’ve already got a pre-determined attitude towards this and it is against it.
“Newcastle has some of the highest incidents of childhood obesity in the country. It’s an epidemic and this would site a McDonald’s on a road leading to the biggest secondary school in the city.”
He added: “Until recently I had public health responsibility on the council. One of the things we did a lot of work on was the provision that we had more power to control unhealthy eating outlets.”
Coun Stockdale said feelings were running high in the area as he leafleted houses located near the proposed site.
Coun Stephen Lambert, who represents the Kenton ward, said: “I’ve had over 58 objections from the Kenton area to this proposal. We feel it’s inappropriate. It is on an extremely busy junction, so there are issues of highway safety.
“All three Kenton councillors are supporting the residents who object to this planning application.”
A local resident who didn’t want to be named, said: “There’s are already two McDonald’s in the area, including one at Kingston Park.
“Obviously it will be a temptation to kids at lunchtime and we worry about it attracting anti-social behaviour. Petitions are being gathered and a lot of people have objected on Newcastle City Council’s website.”
One person who has is Mr Pearmain. He wrote: “Kenton School enjoys the Healthy Schools Award status, but Kenton students will be far more tempted than ever before to buy fast food snacks because of the proximity to the school.
“We know that unhealthy eating and its associated conditions are very high in the relatively deprived districts which are close to the site and which the school serves.
“Although McDonald’s also serves healthy food for those who choose it, as a commercial organisation they allow their paying customers free choice across their products and many young people will choose unhealthy options without the guidance they would receive in school. This will tend strongly to undermine the City Council’s own health policies.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson: “At McDonald’s, we serve good food made from quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. We offer a broad choice and we provide clear nutrition information on our menu boards so our customers can make informed choices that are right for them.
“We would like to reassure local residents that our main priority is to be a good neighbour and we are happy to work with any member of the local community who has concerns about the impact of our business.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 June 2014