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Community outraged after fast food restaurant gets planning permission 300m from school

The proposed restaurant will also be adjacent to a Montessori.

DSC_4971 (1) The area of the proposed development next to the Montessori. Source: Fintan Clarke

LOCAL RESIDENTS OF Skerries in north Dublin have said they are “absolutely shell-shocked” by the decision of Fingal County Council to grant planning permission for a two-storey fast food restaurant just 300m from a primary school.

Fingal County Council on Wednesday granted permission to an application to construct a two-storey restaurant with a drive through at Skerries Point shopping centre on Barnageeragh Road. 

The application was submitted last summer by the company Marbleside Ltd, and was met with fierce local opposition. 

Concerned Skerries residents banded together to form a committee in June of last year to object against the proposed development. 

Locals are concerned about the proximity of the planned restaurant to the local Educate Together National School, as well as the fact that it is adjacent to the Kelly’s Bay Montessori School, and the impact that this could have on children’s health.

skerries point The distance from the proposed shopping centre to Skerries Educate Together National School. Source: Google Maps

There are also objections to increased traffic the development will bring to the area, as a result of the drive-through, and the safety issues this could raise. The proposed development is less than 100 metres from a residential area. 

Concerns have also been raised that a late night fast food restaurant could increase anti-social behaviour in the area, and an over-saturation of fast food restaurants already in the area. 

montessori The distance from the proposed shopping centre to the Montessori Source: Google Maps

Lodging objections   

Fundraisers were held in order to raise money to hire a professional engineer and planner to help people lodge evidence-based objections to the application. 

“There was a lot of anger and outrage at the time… it’s unprecedented the anger that went through the community,” said local resident Corrina Cunnane, who lives close to the site. 

Cunnane was one of the original members of the community who came together to form the committee against the restaurant. 

Local and national TDs were also lobbied for support, with Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, Senator James Reilly, Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Neill and Independent TD Clare Daly among those who objected to the development. 

In total, Cunnane said local residents lodged 156 objections to the planning application at a cost of €20 per submission. 

Additional information

Fingal County Council planners then came back to Marbleside requesting that additional information on the application be submitted.

Among these pieces of additional information, the council required that Marbleside justify the selection of that site for a fast food restaurant, given its proximity to a primary school.

An objective contained in the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 requires that council planners:

Give careful consideration to the appropriateness and location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and, where considered appropriate, to restrict the opening of new fast food/takeaway outlets in close proximity to schools so as to protect the health and wellbeing of school-going children.

Other additional information requested related to sewage and water drainage, access and parking, noise levels and signage, among other concerns. 

Corr & Associates Spatial Planning – acting on behalf of Marbleside – submitted a report dealing with the issues raised by the council.

In relation to the proximity to the school, Corr pointed out that the planning officer notes that the fact that the closest school is a primary school (where children are not allowed leave for lunch) means that the planned restaurant does not contradict the above objective. 

Corr said it agreed with the planning officer’s assessment, saying that ultimately students attending the primary school will not be able to leave during school hours. 

DSC_4972 The planning notice. Source: Fintan Clarke

It said that outside school hours, the responsibility for access to the school should “fundamentally lie with parents and guardians”. 

“It is therefore considered the proposed development will not present a risk to the public health of school students,” Corr concluded. 

Following the additional information being given to the council on 8 February, a further 83 objections were submitted against the proposed restaurant, Cunnane said.

Residents argued that the closeness of the restaurant would put the health of children going to and from school at increased risk.

There were also concerns raised about the effect the marketing of the building’s signage would have on 300 school children passing every day.  

As one submission from two residents notes:

“We are both secondary school teachers ourselves and are witness to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, in addition to the concentration and behavioural problems that are developing as a result of poor nutritional choices in our children.

It is not solely the responsibility of parents and guardians, but the responsibility of a community to raise children.  

The council granted planning permission for the restaurant on Wednesday.

‘Shell-shocked’    

Corinna Cunnane said that local residents were “shell-shocked” by the council’s decision.

“People are shell-shocked that they have gone ahead with [it]… they don’t feel [the planners] have read any of their objections,” she said. 

Cunnane referenced the “no-fry zone” campaign, which advocates for banning fast food restaurants within a certain distance of schools. 

She also pointed towards the recommendation laid out in a recent Oireachtas Childrens Committee report that states that government should enhance planning powers to stop the opening of new fast food outlets “within a defined vicinity of schools”.

DSC_4973 The entrance to Skerries Point shopping centre, near to the proposed development. Source: Fintan Clarke

Cunnane made it clear that she and others have no objection to developments of other types on the land, such as a healthier restaurant or playground or other amenity.

A meeting of the committee in opposition to the restaurant was due to take place last night. Residents have four weeks to appeal the ruling to An Bord Pleanála, which Cunnane said they will certainly do. 

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly – who lives in Skerries – said that she was surprised that planning permission had been granted to the restaurant, considering the depth of public sentiment in opposition to it. 

“It’s very close to a school and I think it’s a very poor move given that the country is supposed to have a policy of tackling childhood obesity and this will have the opposite effect,” she told TheJournal.ie.

We don’t believe that [a fast food restaurant] is necessary or will enhance the local community.    

O’Reilly said her party would be assisting residents in their appeal, and called for local councils to work to introduce no-fry zones.

Council 

In a statement, Fingal CoCo said that it granted permission to the development and that the council was restricted to considering all planning applications on the basis of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

“An appeal may be made to An Bord Pleanála in relation to this decision by the 2 April 2019 and therefore any further comment by Fingal County Council on this application would be inappropriate at this time,” a spokesperson said. 

The Skerries Point Shopping Centre was under the control of Nama before it was sold in 2017 to American investment company Grand Coast Capital for €3.4 million in 2017.

Grand Coast Capital CEO Jeff Carter is also a director of Marbleside Ltd, which lodged the application for the restaurant. 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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