Rutland McDonald's: Are locals happy to see fast food chain?

Ellie Taylor
Image caption Ellie Taylor did not welcome the arrival of McDonald's

Rutland will soon lose its claim of being the only English county without a McDonald's after councillors voted in favour of allowing the fast food chain to build a drive-thru on the outskirts of Oakham.

More than 50 people wrote to the county council objecting to the plans, with one woman saying it was because of "who [McDonald's] are and what they stand for". But no-one on the authority's planning committee voted against the proposals, with eight in favour and one abstaining.

Martin Cuthbert, due to become the manager of the franchise, said he was "confident now is the right time to open a restaurant" in Oakham, describing the chain as "safe and family-friendly".

But how have people in the town reacted to the decision?

Image caption Helen Whitehead said Rutland needed to move with the times

John Thompson, 72, has lived in Oakham for 36 years and is not particularly thrilled about the arrival of McDonald's in the town.

He said: "What the deputy mayor said about people coming in because of it is rubbish. It's a drive-thru - they're not going to get out of the car."

"[Oakham has] grown - there are more houses and fewer independent shops. It's in danger of becoming just like any other town and the McDonald's is a bit of a sign of that."

Helen Whitehead, a 37-year-old mother-of-two and lifelong Oakham resident, welcomed the decision.

She said: "If it were in the middle of the town, I'd understand [the opposition] but it's out on the bypass. It's not going to bring the image down.

"My five-year-old likes it as a little treat. A McDonald's isn't a massive deal in this day and age. Rutland needs to move with the times."

Image caption Sean Grieves said the McDonald's was needed

Sean Grieves, 38, lives in a neighbouring county but has worked as a window cleaner in Rutland for eight years.

He said: "It's a bit posh round here - although I'm from Leicester so everywhere is posh to me. I'm surprised they've got one. They didn't before because they're posh but it needs it."

The change was also welcomed by Graham Keirle, who co-owns a burrito van in Oakham.

"I think it's a good thing if it's going to employ some kids. I'm more surprised it's never had one before," the 62-year-old said. "It's not very forward thinking around here but at the end of the day, Rutland has quite a diverse population."

"It's the talk of the town," says Alex Cavner, a 26-year-old Oakham fishmonger. "I don't think it will make a difference to us - though it was a good thing we were the only county without one.

"Hopefully it won't open the door to other fast food chains."

Image caption Burrito seller Graham Keirle welcomed the competition
Image caption Alex Cavner said he did not want to see an influx of fast food chains

But 25-year-old Ellie Taylor was not happy about the imminent arrival of the fast food firm.

She said: "It's going to ruin Oakham. It's a lovely historic town, very small. We don't need the golden arches. There's one 15 minutes down the road. We're not desperate for it."

Oakham in Bloom spoke out against the plans when they were first submitted.

"In our opinion the landscaping would create a stark and ugly environment for people that would be incongruous with its surroundings," said the volunteer group. "It would have a negative effect on the town. Such eyesores, once built, will be there for decades."

In response, McDonald's has agreed to use stone on parts of the exterior of the outlet, as well as khaki green, timber-effect aluminium to achieve a "subtle natural feel" to the building.

Image copyright McDonald's
Image caption The chain said the restaurant's design would be sympathetic to its surroundings

The opposing views have prompted a wry smile from local rock band Murica.

Two years ago they played a prank by putting up fake posters in the window of a former Natwest building in Oakham announcing the chain was coming to town.

Guitarist Ben McNicholas, who has lived in Rutland all his life, said the public reaction on social media "did not disappoint".

"It was big news - McDonald's coming to Oakham caused outrage. I thought Rutland would never get a McDonald's. It is about time - the kids want it."

Image copyright Rutland County Council
Image caption A letter from a 10-year-old was among objections sent to the council

But perhaps not all of them. Among the objections received by Rutland County Council was a handwritten note by a 10-year-old.

It said: "We are the only county in the whole of England that has no McDonald's. Why not stay like that?"

The divergent opinions were summed up quite neatly by two women in their 70s who spoke to the BBC.

One said she believed the people who had objected were not native Rutlanders, but former city-dwellers drawn to its rural beauty, while the other - who has lived in the county her whole life - fundamentally disagreed.

"Rutland is Rutland. We don't want interfering. There's so many takeaways and cafes. They're taking over the uniqueness of Rutland."

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