There’s no problem with McDonalds opening up in Greystones. There is, for me, and for many parents in the town, a problem with it opening up right beside three of our schools. Just last year the government was considering a 1.5km ‘no-fry zone’ around schools for any new fast-food outlets.
The 2013 national guidelines for local areas plans state the following (page 32):
“…planning also has an important role to play in promoting and facilitating active and healthy living patterns for local communities. For example, the local area plan can promote active and healthier lifestyles by ensuring that…exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar is reduced such as the careful consideration of the appropriateness and or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.”
And yet, An Bord Pleanála has just given permission for such an outlet to be located approximately 100m from the nearest school, with another two schools within about 400m.
Many parents in Greystones have been in touch to express dismay at An Bord Pleanála’s decision. Just this morning, one parent told me they were concerned that the smell of cooking might stretch across to the sports grounds and the school buildings (I have no basis to either agree or disagree with this, to be clear). Other parents have said they’re worried about potential health implications (again, to be absolutely fair, studies have been referenced whereby the proximity of fast food outlets to schools is correlated with higher levels of obesity and type two diabetes, but I have not seen any primary data / research on this).
The main argument posited for allowing McDonalds is the creation of new jobs. This is not an economically sound claim. Firstly, the outlet could simply open elsewhere in the town. Secondly, it is unlikely that total spend will significantly increase, meaning that jobs created would be at the cost of other jobs in other outlets.
At this point, it is hard to see how the planning decision can be reversed, as An Bord Pleanála is the highest planning authority in the Republic. The final course of action, therefore, might be for a direct to McDonalds management, from as many people in the town as possible, to ask that they open up somewhere else in the town. I have been contacted about such a course of action, and will be discussing it with interested parties.