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Revealed: McDonald’s based ill-fated Ellon drive-thru plans on English branches hundreds of miles away

The scheme was supported by more than 100 residents, but planning chiefs were left baffled by "woefully inadequate" proposals.

Ellon McDonald's drive-thru plans were inspired by the likes of this Brentford branch
The Brentford High Street branch inspired the Ellon Mcdonald's drive-thru plans... Image: Google Maps

Perplexed council chiefs grilled McDonald’s bosses on their “woefully inadequate” vision for an Ellon drive-thru months before it was scrapped.

The global giant sparked excitement with plans for the Aberdeenshire town earlier this year, with the nearest branch almost 20 miles away in Aberdeen.

Higher-ups had hoped for permission to open the new diner on Castle Road, near the Tesco supermarket.

And residents were quick to share their enthusiasm, writing scores of letters in support of the development.

The site of McDonald's proposed restaurant in Ellon.
The site of McDonald’s proposed restaurant in Ellon, near the town’s Tesco. Image: McDonald’s

But Ellon locals were left disappointed last week when the fast food favourite withdrew the plans, with bosses admitting they were returning to the drawing board.

We can now reveal the grave fears flagged by council experts all the way back in June, which eventually spelled the end for the popular plans.

Boffins were left flabbergasted that blueprints with such “woefully inadequate” parking availability were even submitted in the first place…

The nearest options to Ellon are in Aberdeen, such as this branch on Union Street. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

What was the reaction to McDonald’s plans for an Ellon drive-thru?

When papers were officially filed with the local authority in May, residents were quick to rally behind the £4 million Castle Road venture.

Artist's impression of the proposed McDonald's drive-thru in Ellon, released around the time of the original planning submission.
Artist’s impression showing the Ellon McDonald’s drive-thru plans. Image: McDonald’s

Within a matter of weeks, 112 people wrote to Aberdeenshire Council appealing for it to be rubber-stamped.

‘Ellon can’t be stuck in the dark ages’

Lorraine Hutchison of Hospital Road welcomed the idea of it replacing “unsightly waste ground”.

She added: “It will be more convenient for local residents to enjoy one of their favourite affordable brands/meal options without having to travel 17 miles in the car.”

Others welcomed the “affordable” dining option, and called for Ellon to “move with the times and not be stuck in the dark ages”.

And Francis Grassick, of Turnishaw Hill, added: “Ellon has turned into a satellite housing scheme for Aberdeen and no longer has the variety of shops/businesses that it had 40 years ago.

“Perhaps allowing new businesses to set up in the town will encourage others to follow.”

What did council roads bosses say?

But the enthusiasm wasn’t shared by the council’s roads department, as incredulous officials highlighted a string of issues.

So what was so bad about them?

To start with, roads chiefs scoffed at the “comparative data” used to assess the impact on the A920/Balmacassie Brae junction.

The diner would be built on land near the Balmacassie industrial estate. Image: McDonald’s.

Their response states that, had they been consulted in advance, they would have “expressed concern” about this being calculated on McDonald’s drive-thru branches in “Wigan and Plymouth”.

It continues: “Our specific concern is that, as will be the case in Ellon, these facilities are more unique relevant to their surrounding area.”

Plymouth is about 650 miles away from Ellon, and roads experts say it’s not an apt comparison.

‘Burger fans lining up outside could create road hazards’

By doing this, McDonald’s has been accused of “underestimating the level of potential queuing at the site”.

A “maximum peak” was predicted to be an average of nine vehicles lining up outside.

But more than this could result in cars being forced to stretch past the drive-thru lane and stack up on the busy road.

The official response states: “There is clear potential for spillover from the site onto the public road, including the entrance to the Tesco and the A920 road to the A90.”

The patch of land, and road which could become jammed if the drive-thru fills up. Image: Google Maps

And what about parking spaces?

The roads department also ruled out attempts to “justify” an insufficient number of parking spaces by comparing the Ellon McDonald’s drive-thru plans to a restaurant on Brentford High Street in London.

The Brentford High Street branch. Image: Google Maps

They added: “The parking proposed for the Ellon site would be insufficient even for a highly accessible main street within Central London.

“This appears to be based solely upon land availability rather than an operational justification.

“The lack of parking spaces, and parking area, compounds the woeful inadequacy of the servicing proposal.

“We are unclear as to how this proposal could have been passed as acceptable by a design team.”

Do you think the council was right to object? Let us know in our comments section below

What next for Ellon McDonald’s plans?

Ultimately, McDonald’s realised that – despite their popularity – there was no way forward for the proposals.

They were withdrawn days ago.

Another view of the ill-fated Ellon McDonald’s drive-thru plans. Image: McDonald’s

But bosses told us they remain “committed” to the idea of bringing a diner to Ellon.

They say they were “extremely encouraged by the positive feedback”, and took the decision after “constructive dialogue with Aberdeenshire Council”.

Revised proposals, taking concerns about parking into account, will be served up soon.

You can see the Ellon McDonald’s drive-thru plans here.

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