Deadly asbestos is plaguing a site earmarked for a multi-million pound McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant – but the fast food giant says it still plans to open its new branch in Tonbridge next year.
The large Cannon Lane development was revealed in 2014, but documents submitted to the council this summer show the site, which used to be home to West Kent YMCA and The Bridge Trust, is contaminated with asbestos.
McDonald’s wants to demolish the existing warehouses and build a single-storey restaurant on the land, with a 24-hour, seven day a week drive-thru.
But apart from objections from neighbours about noise and anti-social behaviour, official reports submitted to planning chiefs have revealed large quantities of contaminants on the site.
Two different environmental studies into the land have turned up large traces of asbestos fibres.
According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year, more than the number of people killed on the road, and around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure. People can get a range of fatal diseases from inhaling the fibres, including lung cancer and asbestosis.
Consultants Jomas Associates completed a geo-environmental study on behalf of the site’s developers this year and confirmed there was a high level of asbestos present. The document stated:
“The risk estimation matrix indicates a generally moderate risk, with a high risk relating to the potential presence of asbestos containing materials within the existing building fabric.
Any potential asbestos containing materials should be assessed, with identified materials removed by suitably qualified personnel.
Based on available information it is concluded there are potential contaminant linkages associated with the site, which require further investigation.”
The Environment Agency has written to council chiefs and warned them the land has to be decontaminated before development can take place.
But a McDonald’s spokesman said the large drive-through was still planned for Tonbridge and it would open next year.
Meanwhile, neighbours have raised concerns about anti-social behaviour that might be associated with the development, and Kent Police has expressed its disappointment in the company not consulting them on the plans or crime prevention methods for the area.
But representatives for McDonald’s have said the development would create 65 full-time jobs and measures would be put in place to ensure noise problems were minimised. Kent County Council has said that it has no objection to the development.
The proposal still relies on planning permission from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, but consent was given for the demolition of the warehouses and construction of a retail block in 2012. The council’s planning committee is due to consider the application at its meeting next Thursday.