Council gives Tim Hortons permission over controversial roadworks
Fast food chain Tim Hortons has secured permission for a change to the scheduling of road alterations associated with its new drive-through in Motherwell.
Citing difficulties in carrying out the roadworks due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and the risk of job losses among staff who had already been recruited, council officers allowed the store to open on Tuesday, December 22. This was despite work to widen the road at Knowetop Avenue into two lanes on approach to its junction with Windmillhill Street, a requirement linked with the original award of planning permission in 2018, not yet having been carried out.
This situation resulted in numerous complaints from councillors and members of the public who were worried about road safety and traffic congestion.
During a North Lanarkshire Council planning hearing on Thursday, January 28, Planning and Place manager Lorna Bowden reminded councillors that NLC’s roads department had not objected to the requested delay in these works and agreed with the developer that the Easter school holiday was the best time for these to be carried out. Temporary measures had also been taken to alleviate traffic congestion and pressures were expected to ease as the novelty of the new premises wore off. The traffic situation will also be monitored in case further action is necessary.
During the meeting Councillor Allan Stubbs expressed concern about how this matter had been handled, also referring to claims made by councillors in local press that if the planning committee refused permission for the delay that no action would be taken by planning officers. He also questioned the relevance of delaying the roadworks until the Easter holidays as schools are not currently open or expected to open in February and requested the deadline be moved forward to the end of that month instead.
He added: “It is totally unacceptable for the company to threaten the council with people losing their jobs because they haven’t done the work that they were supposed to do. They were able to build the building and all the other infrastructure that came with it in the timescale that suited them but they were not able to do the road widening works.”
Cllr Stubbs then criticised the lack of attendance by a roads officer to field questions during the planning meeting before adding: “As a committee would we have granted approval to this application without this particular condition being part of it? I suspect the answer is no yet we are here with it open without a key condition being kept and I can’t understand why the planning service isn’t doing anything about it.”
Ms Bowden said that planning enforcement is not about punishment but trying to resolve issues and that negotiations were ongoing with the developer who has indicated they will carry out the work, so enforcement action would not achieve anything.
She added that Easter is a quieter time for roadworks to be carried out and although there was nothing stopping the work from being done sooner it does take time to organise and plan for such work., which also meant the application’s deadline could only be accepted or refused but not altered.
Councillor Fiona Fotheringham, whose Wishaw ward is near the new drive-through, said there had been “chaos” since it opened. and it was “an accident waiting to happen”.
“This was passed in August 2018 ,” she added, “They’re a multi-million pound company and they’ve had plenty of opportunity. They knew this was coming and I feel they should have been a bit more organised when it comes to these local issues.”
Cllr Fotheringham said the council had been “blackmailed” and “held to ransom” regarding the 50 jobs which had been created by the drive-through.
“I don’t want a death on my conscience. I know the traffic there and there is going to be a school opening there shortly. There is real concern over road users.”
Councillor Paul Kelly supported the approach being taken by council officers, saying it was sensible to continue dialogue with the developers to ensure the work was carried out and if not to then look at enforcement. Soon afterwards he moved to grant the motion.
Councillors Stubbs and Fotheringham moved refusal of the application in order to pursue enforcement action but were outvoted by 16 votes to six.