Villagers' McDonald's protest may force new law on pubs

On the face of it, the residents of a suburban Surrey village make unlikely eco-warriors, but their victory over one of the world's biggest fast-food conglomerates could have national implications. Not only have they seen off plans by McDonald's to open a branch in the middle of their community, their record-breaking protest also looks likely to force a change in the law.

The campaign at Hinchley Wood, Esher, may not have received the degree of national publicity that some other problems have caused McDonald's, but it has already lasted longer than the celebrated "McLibel" trial at the High Court and is expected to prove far more damaging to the fast food chain.

Yesterday, a delegation of residents from Hinchley Wood and their MP, Ian Taylor, presented a proposal for wide-ranging changes in the planning laws to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). The proposal has already received the tacit backing of ministry officials.

When McDonald's bought the village's only pub, planners saw no reason for objecting to a new restaurant. The pub had little to commend it other than the fact that former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa had dropped in for a pint in 1997, when their flight home was delayed by an IRA bomb scare.

However the McDonald's team seriously underestimated the local people, who immediately formed a resistance campaign: Residents Against McDonald's (Ram). The struggle that followed included what is believed to be the longest protest occupation of a site, over 500 days, endless appeal hearings and a bitter public confrontation which, it is alleged, spilt into violence.

Under the A3 class (Food and Drink) of the Town & Country Planning Order, McDonald's did not need permission to turn the Hinchley Wood, an established pub and restaurant, into one of their outlets as no "change of use" was involved. The villagers complained that neither the brewery nor McDonald's had consulted them about the changeover, which would lead to a huge increase in the volume of traffic.

McDonald's did however, need planning permission to widen the access road to the pub car park, considered essential for the smooth flow of customers. Ram saw its chance to block the project and launched the planning actions which were to end in victory.

At the same time, volunteers kept up a vigil in two caravans in the pub car park. For a while they were joined by the E-team, a "flying squad" of veteran ecological activists, to help block construction workers getting on the site. But Ram's real strength lay not in the "Swampy brigade", but expertise within the middle-class community, which included lawyers, planners, statisticians and business people.

The residents have now proposed to the DETR and the Greater London Assembly a reform of planning laws that differentiates between pubs, restaurants and take-aways and would require approval for any change of use. Ram wrote to every local authority in England and received 61 per cent support for the proposal.

The DETR is now carrying out its own review and the feeling within the department is that the final recommendations will be similar to those of the campaigners.

Resident Steve Weltman said: "This is not a crusade against McDonald's. We have all used McDonald's at some stage or other. All we are trying to do is preserve our village's way of life." McDonald's said it was now considering selling off the Hinchley Wood.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada