Work on the new McDonald's on Evereux Way is well underway, and as residents begin to once-again discuss its potential impact, we decided to publish a recap on the building's controversial history.
This will be the the fourth McDonald’s in the Rugby area (if the A45 branch is included), and the second in the town centre – with the Market Place McDonald’s located only around 320 metres (or a five-minute walk) away.
The site had been used as a pay-and-display car park after the Gala Bingo building had been demolished and outline planning permission for a 'foodstore' was granted for the site in 2016.
But in 2018 a proposal to build a two-storey 'drive thru' McDonald's surfaced, and some councillors were far from pleased.
In February of that year Rugby's Lib Dems sent a sternly-worded press release to the Advertiser, outlining their concerns.
Cllr Marion Nash said: “This is not the type of development that we want to see on this important site in Rugby town centre.
“Should this planning application be approved and implemented, one of the first things that visitors will see on arrival to Rugby is a major McDonald’s drive-through, which does not reflect the diversity and culture that abounds within the town and is so valued by the local community.”
Cllr Noreen New also had a strong view on the matter.
She said: "The site is close to many school routes and the park.
“It will not encourage healthy living and may even contribute to childhood obesity, because it’s easier to get fast food than cook a healthy balanced meal.
"I’m also concerned about the potential for increased litter in the town centre and the residential areas nearby."
At the time, the Lib Dems said they felt the site would be better used as a bus terminal.
The Advertiser even waded in to the debate, writing an editorial at the time suggesting that building a budget, fast-food burger restaurant directly opposite the town hall and Caldecott Park was perhaps not going to send a great message to residents and visitors.
Discussions continued and then, on June 19, 2019, the fate of the proposal was decided at a planning meeting.
Councillors from the Labour and Lib Dem groups once-again raised concerns over traffic, littering, anti-social behaviour and doubt over the need for another McDonald’s in the area.
But the councillors from the Conservative group voted to grant permission to the proposal.
Speaking after that meeting, Cllr Jim Ellis said: “Labour councillor members of the planning committee would like to say that we are disappointed that the Tory members of the planning committee voted unanimously to give planning consent to a two story McDonald’s opposite the town hall on the Gala site tonight.
“The Labour and Liberal members used the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) and made contextual, justified material objection, but when it came to the vote, all Tory members voted to allow for the McDonald’s to be built.
“We made fierce, justified argument, but we were outvoted.
“Other members were not prepared to listen. Because of this, our personal response is to be on record as opposing the development because we strongly feel this is the wrong decision.”
Members of the Conservative group later told the Advertiser that many of them were far from thrilled at the prospect of another McDonald's - but they did not feel the objections raised were strong enough.
If a developer is refused planning permission, they can appeal the decision, and an independent inspector will examine the council's objections - rejecting their decision if they are not found to be legally robust.
And matters can become costly for the council if an inspector finds in favour of the developer.
At the time, there were rumours that the Market Place McDonald's would be shut once this new branch was completed.
The Advertiser made repeated attempts to verify this with McDonald's, but we were ignored.