Concern over plan for new nursery next to KFC drive-through in Chorley

Councillors in Chorley have demanded more evidence about air quality close to a drive-through fast food outlet before deciding whether to give the green light to a new children's nursery nearby.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 8:51 pm

Chorley Council's planning committee was considering a proposal to build a day care facility for up to 125 children on land off Barnes Wallis Way in Buckshaw Village - just yards from a KFC restaurant.

The authority's planning officers had initially recommended that the application - from Kids Planet Day Nurseries - should be approved.

However, several committee members raised concerns about the potential impact on children's health of playing in an area so close to a procession of vehicles using the neighbouring drive-through - citing an inquest in London which was considering whether the death of a nine-year-old girl was linked to air pollution.

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The KFC in Buckshaw Village, pictured in March 2019

Ella Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 after suffering an asthma attack and having experienced repeated seizures and made nearly 30 hospital visits in the preceding three years. She lived 25 metres away from one of the capital's busiest roads.

Since the planning meeting, a coroner has ruled that air pollution did play a part in the youngster's death by exacerbating her particular type of severe asthma - the first time poor air quality has been certified as a cause of death in the UK.

Referring to the tragic case, planning committee member Alex Hilton said: "I don't have an issue with the [creation of] a nursery, I have an issue with the location."

He added: "As you are passing through a drive-through, there are lots of cars [moving] at slow speeds, producing lots of fumes and particulate matter.

The proposed site of the new nursery on Barnes Wallis Way in Buckshaw Village (image: Chorley Council)

"There is a lot of evidence to show pollution from drive-throughs is significant," Cllr Hilton warned.

Cllr Danny Gee pointed out that the proposed nursery would be “further away from the main road” than a nearby primary school.

However, the meeting heard that one of the facility’s play areas would be located to the north of the site, adjacent to the KFC.

“It isn’t so much the proximity to the highway, it’s the proximity to the drive-through avenue,” said Cllr Martin Boardman.

In an unusual twist, the debate prompted the council’s service lead for planning to change the recommendation to the committee mid-way through the meeting.

Notwithstanding that the authority’s environmental health team had not raised any concerns about the planned development, Adele Hayes said members should delay their decision until they could obtain definitive data on air quality - and especially in light of the emerging evidence in the Ella Kissi-Debrah case.

“I think it’s really important that we make decisions at Chorley having full regard to the evidence base that's available at the time,” Ms Hayes said.

“I cannot comment on the level of air quality, [but] until we have the evidence to say that, given the size of the KFC and the volume of traffic, that there isn't an impact...I think you should defer the decision to get that information.”

The meeting heard that the council may not hold the relevant data and could have to commission research into the issue.

DOES BUCKSHAW NEED A NEW NURSERY?

The company behind the proposed nursery says that if the maximum number of under-4s potentially requiring childcare in the Central Chorley area - which includes Buckshaw Village - all accessed a place, there would be "less choice and availability for parents". While the firm acknowledges that the number of available childcare places exceeds demand across the borough as a whole, it describes that data as a "snapshot in time" taken during 2019.

Paul Kallee-Grover, the agent for the application, told the committee that Kids Planet Day Nurseries maintains that "there is demand for day care nursery places within the Buckshaw area today - [and it is] expected to increase in the future with new housing and significant areas of employment coming along".

However, the manager of another Buckshaw-based nursery, The Hub - located less than a quarter of a mile away - said that out of 6,000 childcare places in Chorley, almost half of them are currently unoccupied.

"Our own nursery - for first time since opening - has vacancies across all ages, which is due to economic uncertainty in general and the current pandemic.

"While I understand that it is not the role of the planning system to manage market competition, I would ask the committee to consider not putting [at] risk the currently employed staff [at the Hub]," Ms. Wild added.