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Rutland falls to the golden arches and welcomes McDonald's

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/01/2020 Damien Gayle and Kevin Rawlinson
a sign on the side of the road: The conservative heartland had the unusual accolade of not having a Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s restaurant. © PA The conservative heartland had the unusual accolade of not having a Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s restaurant.

It was England’s last hold-out against the expansion of fast-food corporations. Now Rutland, the country’s smallest county, has finally relented.

Councillors granted planning permission for a 24-hour McDonald’s drive-through on Tuesday evening, despite concerns it would destroy the area’s ambience.

The conservative heartland had the unusual accolade of not having a Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s restaurant, with those residents seeking a fast-food hit being forced to drive to neighbouring Leicestershire, Lincolnshire or Northamptonshire.

But since McDonald’s put in an application to build the restaurant on the edge of the county town Oakham last June, debate has raged over whether the plan is appropriate to the region.

Council planning officers had already recommended that councillors approve the plan, but they noted that of 78 representations received from residents at the time they wrote their report, 55 opposed it.

Objections to the council’s planning team ranged from an increase in litter and damage to the local economy, to the potential for an increase in antisocial behaviour and even a claim that the restaurant could cause residential property prices to fall by up to a quarter.

McDonalds fast food Kilmarnock Ayrshire McDonalds fast food Kilmarnock Ayrshire

“I think in an area of outstanding natural beauty and a traditional market town adopting the banality of the golden arches would a sad day,” wrote Robert Kent, an Oakham resident, to the council. “Fast food of poor quality leading to inevitable litter in the surrounding area is not what we need. Even if it creates a few jobs for school kids.”

Another resident, whose full name was not included, wrote: “Is this really the sort of business we want to entice? With an epidemic of obesity and mental health concerns. Please do not encourage a corporation of this size where profits come before the community’s health.”

But residents who spoke to the Guardian in Oakham last week were more sanguine over the proposals, with many hopeful that the new restaurant would give the town’s young people somewhere to go and create local jobs. Many suggested that opposition to the restaurant was along age lines, with older residents more likely to be opposed. Parents living in the town said they would welcome not having to drive to neighbouring counties to “treat” their children to McDonald’s food.

The restaurant is proposed for a site on the edge of Oakham, close to a bypass that connects the town with larger cities such as Nottingham and Leicester.

McDonald’s said it had carried out an extensive community consultation in Oakham before submitting its application, including two sessions attended by more than 400 people. The company said it would create 65 full and part-time jobs for local people and that it had undertaken to carry out three litter picks a day.

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