BURGER giant McDonald’s is looking to almost double its number of open all-night restaurants in the Capital in a move that has sparked protests from residents.
The multinational chain has submitted plans to keep the drive-through in Gorgie Park Road open until 5am – its third such extension bid in recent weeks.
Some residents fear the restaurants could become a magnet for gangs and antisocial behaviour, and undermine efforts to tackle rising obesity.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett accused licensing bosses of ignoring their own guidelines and said: “This impinges on health and the kind of city we want to see. What is the point of having policies if we waive them at the first whiff of a Big Mac?”
The McDonald’s restaurant in Gorgie Park Road is set to join a growing list of branches which are open until 5am for all or part of the week.
Earlier this month, the franchise in Craigentinny Avenue North was given the green light to open until 5am, while its counterpart in Newmarket Road is currently applying to keep sit-in dining available until 5am all week. McDonald’s already had four city restaurants opening until 5am before the latest applications.
Cllr Corbett said the council’s approach flew in the face of an agreed freeze on extending trading hours.
He said: “I knew that the council committee which oversees such matters had recently agreed to review late night-catering policy but, in the meantime, that policy on closing times would be strictly kept to. I was surprised, however, when, only last week, an application for a McDonald’s near Seafield to trade as a drive-through until 5am was approved despite the policy of the council.”
Cllr Corbett – who warned there could soon be new all-night fast food applications – was joined in his attack by residents and retail experts.
Rona Brown, 65, who lives close to McDonald’s in Gorgie Park Road, said: “I would have great concerns – this is a residential area and there are flats due to open up next door.”
Craigentinny Avenue North resident Hugh Wilson, 77, said: “There has been a lot of mess around the McDonald’s near us – you find cartons and rubbish everywhere. I think a lot depends on where the restaurants are put. We’re lucky. We do not get gangs congregating, which I think you would probably get in the town.”
Mike Pretious, a retail and consumer affairs expert based at Queen Margaret University, said: “The gravitation of a number of people who have been out partying or have been at bars and clubs is a concern.
“If McDonald’s hasn’t thought about these possibilities then I think they’re under a misapprehension.”
But the criticisms were rejected by McDonald’s bosses and city licensing chiefs.
Nick Hindle, senior vice-president of McDonald’s UK Corporate Affairs, said: “If extra security is needed then we would look at that. It hasn’t been an issue elsewhere.
“We take our responsibilities on health very seriously and we’ve recently reduced salt and sugar in our food.
“In terms of obesity, the average McDonald’s customer eats in one of our restaurants two or three times a month, so we need to keep things in perspective.”
City licensing leader Gavin Barrie insisted it was forbidden to prejudge any application, even in light of existing policy.
He said: “The applicant at Craigentinny offered a guarantee of a number of full-time jobs if the application was successful and in the current employment climate the vast majority of members believed it would be unreasonable to deny the application given that there were no objections.”