McDonald’s has won planning permission to expand and refurbish its Earlswood restaurant, including improvements to the drive-through and more parking spaces.
Under the plans, the drive-through will run right round the building – rather than through the main car park as at present – with ordering machines in parallel to improve traffic flow.
The building itself will be expanded, with more seating both inside and outside. Changes already made at other McDonald’s will also be rolled out, including a wider menu and mobile ordering.
Between 30 and 40 new staff will join the 90 already employed at the site, according to the application.
Reigate & Banstead granted permission subject to conditions, including requiring council sign-off on some further details.
Earlier this week a spokesperson for McDonald’s couldn’t give information on when work might start, but did say:
“We can confirm that we are currently working with the council on our plans and are hopeful of a positive outcome.”
It’s taken a while for McDonald’s to navigate Reigate & Banstead’s planning process.
Wider-ranging proposals, put forward in 2017, were withdrawn after Reigate & Banstead raised concerns about the green belt, the effect on the building itself (locally listed, dating from the 1820s) and other matters.
A revised set of plans later in 2017 were also withdrawn after talks with the council.
The proposals that have now been approved contain more modest alterations, with the changes to the building and road layout kept behind existing hedges.
In deciding the application, the planning officer in fact found that the building’s expansion was inappropriate in the green belt – but also looked at other factors such as jobs and training, better on-site parking and traffic management, restoration of the building, and benefits to customers.
The officer concluded:
“Taken cumulatively, the various benefits and positive considerations which would be delivered through the scheme (notably jobs and restoration of the locally listed building) are of sufficient weight to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt (and any other harm).
Very special circumstances therefore exist to justify the development and thus the proposals would not conflict with local or national policy, both of which allow for inappropriate development in very special circumstances.”
Three comments were received on the plans (against).
Perhaps unusually for a high-profile application, no councillor called the proposals into the planning committee, meaning it was decided by a council officer.
McDonald’s opened at the site in the early 2000s: the previous occupant was a Mongolian barbecue restaurant and before that a pub, the Prince Albert.