Greystones residents angry at council's plans to build McDonald's next to three schools
An Bord Pleanala have given the green light to fast food giant McDonalds to open an outlet near three schools in Greystones, despite vocal opposition from the community.
Councillors and residents in Greystones, as well as the Greystones Municipal District, all lodged appeals against planning permission granted to the business to open a new branch in the town.
However, their appeals were rejected by An Bord Pleanala.
Yesterday's ruling has given the US multinational the go-ahead to construct a cafe and health and fitness studio on a site in the Blacklion shopping centre in the Wicklow town.
This decision has angered the coastal community and many residents feel the site of the fast-food outlet is unsuitable due to its proximity to three schools.
Two of these, Gaelscoil na gCloch Liatha and Greystones Educate Together, are primary schools, while the third, Temple Carrig is a second-level school - in total, they have a student population of approximately 2,000 when they are fully operational.
At a local community meeting last year, residents claimed the plans were a "cynical, deliberate attempt" by the fast food chain to target school children, giving them greater access to low-quality food.
McDonald's has denied that the location of the restaurant is deliberate and argued that its new project will generate lots of jobs in the area.
"Proximity to local schools is not a deciding factor or part of the criteria for McDonald's when it comes to assessing suitable locations for new restaurants," it claimed in a statement.
A Facebook group has been set up to mobilise local residents into action against and Liz Dillon, head of the group, told Independent.ie that residents are now looking into their next step.
"The next step is a judicial review but that could cost up to €100k in legal fees, we need to see how we can raise that kind of money," she said.
The judicial review would check to see if An Bord Pleanála acted accordingly in approving the project.
"We're not opposed to the creation of jobs, we just don't want a fast-food restaurant so close to our schools," she added.
Her concerns come amid a recent report that shows one in four Irish children is overweight and a quarter of 11-year-olds are now clinically obese.
And Children's Lifestyle Study, published last year, found soaring high-blood pressure levels among 9-11 year olds in Ireland because of their weekly reliance on fast-food.