26 February 2020

No fries with that: McDonald's development at Chisholm rejected

| Michael Weaver
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Chisholm Tavern manager Jennifer Hunt

Chisholm Tavern manager Jennifer Hunt outside the venue she and her husband Graham have operated for 28 years. Photo: Region Media.

A development application to open a McDonald’s restaurant at Chisholm has been rejected by the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA).

In a battle between a family-owned small business and the world’s most popular family restaurant, the proposal was to demolish the existing Chisholm Tavern site to make way for the fast-food chain, which already operates stores nearby at Erindale, Lanyon and Tuggeranong.

The $2.2 million proposal, submitted last June by Chisholm Village Pty Ltd, sought to remove the existing tavern and construct a McDonald’s Family Restaurant. It also required the purchase of an adjacent publicly owned toilet block. The application was rejected last week.

More than 700 signatures against the development were presented in a petition by Member for Brindabella and Chisholm local Joy Burch. A further 119 written submissions were made during the public notification period.

Some of the submissions included concerns about parking and traffic, pedestrian circulation, the character of the Chisholm centre, the current number of McDonald’s in the area, the impact on existing businesses, public health, and social and environmental impacts.

Ms Burch said she was very pleased to hear that the development application had been knocked back.

“The decision to reject the proposal of a McDonald’s restaurant at Chisholm was made by a delegate of the Planning and Land Authority after an open consultation period,” Ms Burch said.

“During this period of consultation, I facilitated a petition for the Tuggeranong community to provide their feedback on the proposal.

“The feedback I received, and that was provided to the Planning and Land Authority by way of a petition, was that overwhelmingly, the community did not wish to see a McDonald’s built at the Chisholm shops.

“I believe the feedback received was a strong demonstration of the community desire to support their local shops and particularly the existing Chisholm Tavern.”

Reasons for the rejection of the proposal include access issues for delivery drivers and access points for the public at the front and rear of the proposed store not being wide enough. There was also an issue with carpark space at the already-busy Chisholm shops being utilised as parking space for McDonald’s customers.

Chisholm Tavern manager Jennifer Hunt has operated the business for more than 28 years and told Region Media they will remain open despite the proposal and high rents having a significant impact on their business.

“The future of the Chisholm Tavern is somewhat brighter than it was last week,” Ms Hunt said. “This is extremely good news for all small and local businesses in the Chisholm shopping complex, not just us.

“The big thank you belongs to Joy Burch who never gave up, and also the patrons of the Chisholm Tavern, along with the general public who didn’t want a Maccas in the area.”

She said the McDonald’s proposal meant the business had been unable to plan ahead in advance.

“I book functions every weekend and there are people who like to book early, but I have had to say ‘no sorry, I don’t know whether we will be here’.

“This has had an awful impact on our business. Yes, I agree that the economy is slow, but for me, it was the fact of not being able to plan ahead more than a month or two. And then that weekend I end up with no function.”

Ms Hunt said high rents charged by landlords put a lot of pressure on businesses at Chisholm to survive and that she is assessing her options about whether to stay and consider investing in renovations or close the doors on a business that has actively supported live music for many years.

“I am a bit apprehensive about whether we should stay or go,” she said. “It is such exorbitant rent that I need those functions to be able to cover costs.”

Exorbitant rents have also claimed one of the original tenants at the Chisholm centre. Region Media can confirm Zucchini Brothers pizza shop at Chisholm will soon close due to high rents. Its stores at Tuggeranong and Jerrabomberra will remain open.

A McDonald’s spokesperson told Region Media that the company is reviewing the ACTPLA decision and is considering its options.

“No decisions have been made at this time,” the spokesperson said.

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Why is there not more focus on exorbitant Canberra rents that are driving small businesses to the wall, driving up living costs and destroying Canberra’s character? The silence on this issue is deafening.

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