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Sunderland council rejects new KFC drive-thru near school over child obesity fears

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 26/09/2022 Chris Binding
The Barnes Service Station, Durham Road, Sunderland © Google The Barnes Service Station, Durham Road, Sunderland

Controversial proposals for a new KFC drive-thru restaurant on Wearside have been rejected by city councillors, following childhood obesity concerns.

Back in February 2022 Sunderland City Council’s planning department validated plans for the Barnes Service Station, which sits between Queen Alexandra Road and Durham Road in the St Michael’s ward.

Proposals from Euro Garages Ltd aimed to flatten the site, which is occupied by a petrol filling station and a convenience store, and to build a drive-thru restaurant in its place.

However the plans sparked opposition from locals with hundreds of people signing a petition against the plans and a number of councillors from St Michael’s, Barnes and Millfield wards also raising concerns.

Read more: New Asda store will be built at site of Sunderland petrol station despite local backlash

At a meeting of the council's planning and highways committee this week, the plans were refused by city councillors.

The decision was in line with an official recommendation from council planning officers, as the application clashed with policies in the council’s local plan aiming to tackle obesity and create “safe and healthy communities”.

This was because the proposed KFC outlet would be within a 400-metre radius of entry points to three schools, with planners adding the development would lead to “increased access to an unhealthy eating outlet”.

Wider factors were also considered in the recommendation including predicted increases in childhood obesity rates and the “large concentration” of existing fast food takeaways in the area.

Arguments for and against the application were made at a meeting at City Hall on Thursday, September 22.

A representative speaking on behalf of applicant Euro Garages Ltd stressed the current petrol filling station site was unviable and that the new plans would generate jobs and enhance the site’s “environmental value”.

This included the creation of up to 50 new jobs linked to the drive-thru restaurant, as well as plans to nearly triple the amount of trees on site, introduce a one-way traffic system and install electric vehicle charging points.

Applicants also contested the argument that the restaurant would “contribute towards existing obesity levels and make the situation worse” – and stated the petrol station site already sells sugary drinks, crisps and chocolate which are “more obtainable” to children due to cost.

Councillor Peter Wood, speaking on behalf of St Michael’s ward councillors, welcomed the planning officer’s assessment and recommendation for refusal.

Barnes councillor Antony Mullen, also speaking in objection, added there were “many more reasons why [the application] should have been rejected” including highways impacts and “insufficient parking”.

Those behind the development previously said the site is planned to be a KFC but there was “no guarantee that this will be the end user”.

A statement included in a committee report noted the site “could be home to KFC or Leon”, both of which sell different types of food, but that KFC is “increasingly selling more healthier and vegetarian options”.

During discussion of the application, councillor James Doyle said the recommendation to refuse from planning officers, and the policy used to do so, was “very clear-cut”.

Cllr Doyle added: “If an application for this type of use falls within 400 metres of the entrance of a primary or secondary school then we need to refuse it, and that’s what we’re doing”.

After being put to the vote, members of the planning and highways committee unanimously refused plans for the drive-thru restaurant.

The applicant has the right to contest the council’s decision by lodging an appeal with the Secretary of State.

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