Wednesday 26 June 2019

Campaign leads to withdrawal of drive-thru plans

Concerted local campaign against project forces rethink

Green Party representative Joe O’Brien with local residents in Skerries
Green Party representative Joe O’Brien with local residents in Skerries

John Manning

A concerted local campaign against a proposal to open a drive-thru fast food restaurant at Skerries Point appears to have been successful with news that the controversial planning application has been withdrawn.

A public meeting to harness opposition to the proposal had been called by local Green Party representative, but before that meeting could take place, the controversial planning application was withdrawn, to delight of local campaigners.

Local Green Party representative and member of the Parent Teacher Association of the school, Joe O'Brien explained why he had intended to call the meeting, saying: 'It's very clear already from people living in the vicinity of the proposed development, those whose children go to the school and indeed from people in other parts of Skerries that a drive-thru restaurant is not wanted in the town. My central reasons for objecting to the development centre on my children's health and wellbeing and the health and wellbeing of all children in Skerries.'

He explained: 'We have a national crisis in terms of childhood obesity and we need to use every tool we can to tackle and prevent this problem. Skerries has so many excellent opportunities for young people to get out and get physical exercise and we need to keep the town as health a place as possible to grow up in and live in.

Mr O'Brien argued: 'The proposed development was right beside a crèche and within a stone's throw of the front gates of the Educate Together National School. There will literally be hundreds of young children walking and cycling past this proposed development every day. What is more it is situated in a very young and growing residential area where there are a lot of young families.'

He said he also had traffic safety concerns about the development, saying: 'There were a raft of traffic safety reasons why this would also be a bad idea. Footpaths and pedestrian crossings in the area do not connect properly which already means people need to make unsafe crossings - adding a drive thru to the mix would have exacerbated matters.'

Local councillor, Cllr Tom O'Leary (FG) also objected to the development and shared many of the concerns set out by Mr O'Brien.

Cllr O'Leary said that if the outlet was allowed to open for 24 hours, it would 'seriously adversely affect residential amenity in the area'.

The local councillor said he had serious safety concerns about the proposal. He explained: 'Pedestrians will all have to traverse a narrow junction which is very busy at present with vehicular traffic, but will be much busier and complicated if this proposal is passed, with the additional traffic from the drive-thru facility exiting at the same junction as the traffic is entering the main car park. I cannot see how this can be made safe for pedestrian customers, whom I estimate will make up a major proportion of business at this proposed fast food restaurant.'

Cllr O'Leary shared Mr O'Brien's concerns about the location of the development, close to a school and said 'young impressionable students would be drawn across the road after school to use this facility'.

Locals had also started raising funds to hire planning advisors to oppose the project but late last week, the planning application was withdrawn.

Planning consultants argued in favour of drive-thru plan

Before withdrawing the controversial planning application for a 24-hour, drive-thru restaurant in Skerries, planning consultants had been putting the case in favour of the development and argued that it would not have 'any negative impact' on the nearby school.

One of the primary concerns over the development locally was its proximity to a primary school and the possible impact of the project on children's health.

But in the planning application for the project, planning consultants, Corr and Associates, acting for the applicant, Marbleside Ltd., argued: 'The location of the proposed development does not create any conflict regarding schools in the area. The closest school in this case is Skerrries Educate Together National School. There are distinct differences between fast food outlets being located proximate to primary schools and post-primary schools.

'It is not permitted for pupils of primary schools to leave the school grounds during the normal school day. In comparison, many post-primary students are permitted to leave school grounds for lunchtime during the normal school day.'

The planning consultants argued that the nearest secondary school is 2.3km away from the site and state in the planning application that 'the proposed development is not envisaged to have any negative impact on either school'.

The planning application sought permission for 24-hour opening but stated that may not result in 24-hour operation but was needed to facilitate 'flexibility' in its opening hours. The planning application also stated car parking in the existing Skerries Point retail development would be sufficient for its needs and there was 'no requirement for customer car parking within the boundary of the subject site'.

The fast-food outlet would have seating for 125 customers and employ 10 to 12 people.

Fingal Independent