Controversial proposals for a new KFC drive-thru restaurant on Wearside have been rejected by councillors, following concerns about childhood obesity.

In February 2022, Sunderland City Council’s Planning Department validated plans for Barnes Service Station, located between Queen Alexandra Road and Durham Road in the St Michael ward.

Euro Garages Ltd’s proposals were to level the site, which is occupied by a petrol station and convenience store, and build a drive-through restaurant in its place.

However, the plans have drawn opposition from residents with hundreds signing a petition against the plans and a number of councilors from St Michael’s, Barnes and Millfield wards have also expressed concerns.

Read more: New Asda store to be built on Sunderland service station site despite local backlash

At a meeting of the council’s planning and roads committee this week, the plans were refused by councillors.

The decision was in line with an official recommendation from the council’s planning officers, as the request clashed with the council’s local plan policies aimed at tackling obesity and creating ‘safe and healthy communities’.

Indeed, the proposed KFC outlet would be within a 400m radius of the entrance points to three schools, with planners adding that the development would lead to “increased access to an unhealthy outlet”.

Wider factors were also considered in the recommendation, including projected increases in childhood obesity rates and the “large concentration” of existing fast food takeouts in the area.

Arguments for and against the request were made at a meeting at City Hall on Thursday, September 22.

A representative speaking on behalf of the claimant Euro Garages Ltd pointed out that the current site of the service station was not viable and that the new plans would create jobs and improve the “environmental value” of the site.

This included the creation of up to 50 new restaurant-related jobs with drive-thrus, as well as plans to nearly triple the number of trees on the site, introduce a one-way traffic system and install charging stations for electric vehicles.

The candidates also disputed the argument that the restaurant would ‘contribute to existing levels of obesity and make it worse’ – and said the gas station site already sells sugary drinks, crisps and chocolate which are “more accessible” to children due to cost.

Councilor Peter Wood, speaking on behalf of St Michael’s ward councillors, welcomed the planning officer’s assessment and recommendation for refusal.

Barnes adviser Antony Mullen, also speaking in opposition, added that there were “many other reasons why [the application] should have been rejected”, including impacts on highways and “insufficient parking”.

Those behind the development had previously said the site was to be a KFC, but there was “no guarantee it will be the end user”.

A statement included in a committee report noted that the site “may be home to KFC or Leon”, both of which sell different types of food, but that KFC is “increasingly selling healthier and vegetarian options”.

When discussing the request, Councilor James Doyle said the recommendation to refuse planning officers, and the policy used to do so, was “very clear”.

Cllr Doyle added: “If a request for this type of use falls within 400 meters of the entrance to a primary or secondary school, we must refuse it, and we do.”

After being voted on, the members of the town planning and roads committee unanimously refused the drive-through restaurant projects.

The applicant has the right to challenge the board’s decision by filing an appeal with the Secretary of State.

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