The Lowdown: Rutland's last stand

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

The Lowdown: Rutland's last stand against fast food restaurant giant McDonald's

Related tags: Mcdonald's, Restaurant, QSR, Protest, England

McDonald’s hopes to open a restaurant in Rutland, which would make it the last county in England to be conquered by the Golden Arches. However, local resistance could derail the chain’s plans.

Sounds like not everyone is lovin’ it…
You’re not wrong. The US fast food giant has faced a (Mc)flurry of criticism since submitting its proposal to build a drive-thru restaurant on the outskirts of Oakham in Rutland back in June. According to the BBC​, more than 50 people have so far made official representations to the council's consultation regarding the application. One resident has brandished it “disgusting”, while another has said they’re proud Rutland is the only county not to have a McDonald's.

Why such hostility?
There are numerous reasons. Many fear the arrival of a big-name, fast-food restaurant will forever change the character of what is the nation's smallest county; traditionally famous for its hunting scene, tourist-attraction reservoir, and independent schools. The BBC​ reports that one resident, who moved to the county five years ago because she and her partner liked its absence of big chains, said officials should be encouraging local businesses instead. And another, who has managed an Indian takeaway in Oakham for 20 years, claims that the opening will “bring riff-raff”.

Presumably this isn’t the first time the public has tried to resist Ronald’s charms?
You’re right there. According to The Guardian​, earlier this summer McDonald’s was given permission to open a drive-thru in the Lake District town of Ulverston despite a petition opposing the plans being signed by 921 people. “It will cause so much litter,” the petition said. “Ulverston will become obese!!” It’s not just people in England trying to do battle with the Big Mac either. Last October, the town of Dolus d’Oléron on the island of Oléron off the French Atlantic coast lost a four-year legal battle and was left with a €105,000 fine after trying to prevent McDonald’s building a drive-thru there. The mayor, Grégory Gendre, originally refused permission, but a court later ruled that the decision was unlawful. Gendre continued the fight with the help of public donations and a petition of nearly 83,000 signatures. The case was eventually lost, though, and the town will soon have a McDonald’s built there anyway.

So there’s not much hope for Rutland’s residents then?
We wouldn’t say that. McDonald's has about 1,300 restaurants across the UK, but it has not always won over locals. When the chain arrived in Tavistock in Devon in 1997, people boycotted and a mere nine years later the chain announced it was leaving.

Fair enough. Are there any residents in Rutland who are in favour of the opening?
Certainly. Oakham's mayor David Romney said he believes the arrival of McDonald’s will lift the town out of the "Dark Ages", according to the BBC​. He said younger people were having to leave town for work once they finish school, with one local teen adding that the jobs McDonald's would bring – it’s suggested the restaurant could create 65 new positions – would be helpful.

Sounds like there’s strong arguments being made on both sides. When is a decision on the new McDonald’s likely to be made?
Who knows. Rutland County Council has said it is still considering the application and does not know when it will be able to make a decision. Should it pass, it’s likely that not everyone will be queueing for a Happy Meal on opening day.

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