Metro Bank has dropped plans to open a drive-through branch in Charlton, with McDonald’s looking to rebuild and expand its restaurant on Bugsby’s Way instead.
Plans for a bank on the busy site were approved by council officers 16 months ago as Metro, which has high street branches in Bexleyheath, Bromley and the City of London, looked to expand its presence across the country.
“We are no longer looking at the Charlton site. We will be opening two new stores in 2021, in Bradford and Leicester,” a spokesperson said.
McDonald’s is now looking to knock down its existing site, which it says suffers from subsidence, and start again with a two-storey building. “Whilst the proposed building is bigger, this is to improve the overall operation, rather than the scale of the restaurant,” it says. “The proposed second floor will be used for back of house only. The dining area would only increase minimally and the number of covers would increase from 90 to 95.”
It also wants to introduce a “side-by-side” operation in the drive-through, increasing the capacity for cars from 11 to 15.
On litter, it says: “It is company policy to conduct a minimum of three daily litter patrols, whereby employees pick up not only McDonald’s packaging, but also any other litter that may have been discarded in a 150m vicinity of a restaurant. This may be expanded to suit local needs.”
The site is earmarked long-term for residential development as part of the Charlton Riverside masterplan. A council report following the Metro Bank application said: “Whilst the proposals would not incorporate residential uses …it is noted that the redevelopment of the wider area known as Woolwich Road West is not envisaged to come forward till at least the next plan period; with the current plan period running until 2028. It is therefore reasonable to assume that redevelopment of the area is likely to be realised in the medium-term, rather than short-term.”
Close by, Asda has also applied for permission to build an extension into its car park to accommodate home shopping and drive-in click-and-collect services. The application, which was submitted in February, seeks the go-ahead to build out into the area currently used for minibuses.
Lidl has submitted a planning application for its proposed new store in the Charlton retail parks – giving residents the opportunity to have their say on the plans.
The store plans to move into the former H&M unit in “Greenwich” Shopping Park, as well as taking over the adjacent River Island store, which is due to close in September.
Lidl’s plans to move in across the road from its rival Aldi will further add to concerns about traffic in the area – with the Greenwich Shopping Park already regularly jammed up at weekends, and the potential for heavy traffic spreading further with the opening of east Greenwich’s Ikea store last week. There are no plans to change traffic access into the park, which frequently becomes a bottleneck.
The traffic assessment submitted by the retail park’s owner skirts around the potential for gridlock, with a traffic survey looking at only a Friday and Saturday in early November, without including the heavily-congested Sundays. It claims there were 90 free spaces in the 391-space car park at the busiest hour on the Saturday.
Basing its assessment on a 2011 survey carried out in a retail park in Cardiff with an M&S food store, it claims 10% of the Lidl store’s trade will be new traffic to the area, but another 30% will be tempted in from Bugsby’s Way or other local roads. It also cites a 1998 planning appeal by Tesco for a store in Exeter to support its point.
Ikea is not mentioned in the transport assessment.
Whether the council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan, which covers the area, will give planners any teeth in dealing with the store’s application is not clear. While most of the retail in the area is relatively recent – the Greenwich Shopping Park was given permission in 2000, others were approved in 2013 and 2014 – the council now says “the existing retail does not conform with [council] policy”. This application could be a test of how the masterplan, adopted in 2017, relates to the current retail parks.