By Lewis Smith
FAST food giants Burger King has won the right to set up shop at a site in Bridgend.
The firm applied to the county council in 2021 to build a new “drive-thru” restaurant at Wickes car park off the A48 Picton Court roundabout – but was refused.
Officials said no on the basis there wasn’t a pedestrian crossing at the roundabout, as well as saying there was a lack of capacity for the increased volume of traffic the restaurant could generate.
However, Burger King have now won an appeal after the planning inspector dismissed the council’s objections – saying the local authority had failed to provide evidence to support their claims.
It means Bridgend Council will also have to pay costs to the applicant for the appeal, after it was deemed to have behaved “unreasonably” by the inspector at the hearing held in March.
The inspector’s report on costs read: “I acknowledge the A48 is a busy road and pedestrians need to cross with care. However, the council produced no technical evidence, by way of data or studies to support the assertion that the level of traffic or highway geometry on the A48 is such that it is a barrier to pedestrians reaching the shops and services on its southern side.
“My own experience, visiting the site at rush hour, is that it is possible to cross the A48 safely. I do not consider, therefore, that the council produced sufficient evidence to support its concerns regarding the safety of pedestrians.”
It added: “Turning to capacity, in its appeal statement and at the hearing, the council’s position was to attempt to rubbish the appellant’s evidence. Until the submission of the amended costs rebuttal the council produced no evidence of its own to support its arguments that the local highway network could not accommodate the traffic generated by the proposed development.”
Local business owner Megan Israel of Brackla, runs Meg’s Grill and Chill on the same car park, and described her disappointed at the result of the appeal which she says could now have a massive impact on her business.
Despite representations throughout the appeal process about the effect the plans could have they were dismissed by the inspector as “not a material consideration.”
Megan said: “I’ve been here for four years and I have a really loyal base of customers that come to me, so as far as I’m concerned I won’t leave the area without a fight.
“I’ll have to move from the actual spot I’m in now, but at the moment my plan is to move down the car park between the proposed Burger King and Wickes.
“Of course this has been a very stressful time for me. I worked incredibly hard to make the business reputable and a success over the past few years, even going all the way through the pandemic, so I won’t just give up my livelihood.
“For me the issue is not with the competition from Burger King in terms of their food, as we already have a nearby McDonald’s, KFC, and a Greggs, so that’s not a worry.
“The concern is the increase in traffic on the roads that could reduce access in to the site, backing cars on to the roundabout and potentially causing us to lose a large amount of footfall.”
Megan who is known for her Monster Sandwich Challenge, said she was also disappointed with the lack of preparation in defence of the initial planning rejection on this occasion.
She added: “I was very disappointed with the hearing, as I felt there was a lack of preparation from Bridgend council to defend the decision, as they came in with no data or evidence to back up our concerns.
“I feel let down and to be honest it was quite embarrassing. I’ve been fighting this for two years now as the business is my pride and joy, so either way no-one is going to just push me out, and as long as my customers keep coming to me I will keep going.”
A Bridgend County Borough Council spokesman said: “The council follows all requirements and procedures as laid down in planning legislation when considering applications.
“Although the site lies within the Bridgend Retail Park as designated in the Local Development Plan, the focus of this appeal was primarily on the highway and pedestrian safety aspects of the proposal and the council would like to make clear that it strongly defended its case throughout the proceedings.
“Whilst the majority of all appeals are found in our favour, the inspector disagreed with us on this particular occasion.”