Air quality impact of drive-thru restaurant debated

A drive-thru KFC in London was sanctioned by an inspector despite misgivings over air quality.

The site comprised an underused and degraded area of open land adjacent a roundabout at the confluence of several main roads, in a mixed commercial and residential area. The main issues for the inspector were whether this was a suitable location accessible other than by car and the effect on the living conditions of adjoining occupiers in terms of air quality, noise and disturbance, and smells.

The council was concerned that the drive-thru restaurant would become a destination in its own right but the appellant asserted it would predominantly cater for those already on the highway network and involved linked trips. In the inspector’s opinion, in this urban location, while there would be some diversion from the primary road network, customers would predominantly come from the local community and the proposal physically allowed for access by foot and bicycle, with existing pedestrian crossings around the roundabout to be enhanced by provision of dedicated cycle crossings. Relatively low public transport access, being only one mode of non-car travel, did not alter the inspector’s conclusion that the proposal would be accessibly located with a choice of mode of transport.

In terms of effects on neighbouring living conditions, the inspector concluded, subject to conditions, the drive-thru would not give rise to significant noise impacts or unacceptable odours. However, he found there would be a small worsening in air quality whereas local policies required development to be at least neutral to be acceptable. Although the appellant offered electric vehicle charging points by way of mitigation, the inspector could not be sure how effective this would be given a lack of information on the split between takeaway and restaurant customers who would be more likely to utilise charging facilities. Setting this harm against the benefits of employment and use of unkempt land detracting from the wider area, the inspector decided conflict with the development plan and emerging London plan in respect of air quality policy was outweighed and allowed the appeal.

Inspector: Robert Jackson; Hearing

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