In our article last week, we questioned McDonald’s global sustainability claims in light of evidence from Brazil, and reported on the destruction of 11 trees and installation of plastic grass at a McDonald’s drive-through outlet in North London. At the weekend, local residents demonstrated at the site, receiving a huge amount of public support.
During the week, information has emerged to suggest this might not be an isolated incident, raising further doubts and questions over the corporation’s claims around sustainability.
The Harringay Green Lanes drive-through planning proposal was for “minor refurbishment” and made no mention of trees. Indeed, the applicant went as far as to tick the box claiming there were no trees that “might be important as part of the local landscape character”.
Planning application document – haringey.gov.uk
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Haringey Council granted planning permission for “minor alterations that would not have an impact on the character and appearance of the building nor the area”.
Following the public outcry over the total removal of 11 mixed plane and lime trees, all around 37 years old, the owner of the franchise, Mr. Harry Rashid, claimed that some “drainage issues and a degree of subsidence in the area where the trees were located” led to his decision that “it was in the best interests of the trees to remove them”.
A public tweet by local councillor and Haringey Member for Climate Action, Mike Hakata, suggests that Mr. Rashid initially claimed only six trees were felled, rather than the actual number.
McDonald’s have now agreed ‘in principle’ to plant 12 new trees “in the area”, but campaigners are gob-smacked that rather than condemn the destruction of these valuable trees, or questioning the failure to refer to them in planning, now Haringey Council, Haringey Labour, and Cllr Mike Hakata all seem to be publicly applauding McDonald’s for this offer.
Real Media contacted the Forestry Commission who are now investigating whether an offence has occurred.
We have also been given evidence of internal memos dating from 2019 which appear to reveal a McDonald’s plan to increase public visibility of restaurants by removing trees and foliage. Although the plan may have been delayed or abandoned, what has happened in Haringey bears a striking resemblance to the plans outlined. We have asked McDonald’s for their response, and for their assurance that no such plan is in place.
A local resident and science teacher attending the protest showed us temperature measurements, demonstrating that the plastic grass was heating up to 39º while air temperatures were below 30º.
He also told us that the area was already prone to flash-flooding. His concern was that damaged drains, run-off from the new astroturf, and drier soil after the removal of the trees, would all combine to make the situation worse next time. A scientific report last year verifies the issue of run-off and reinforces those flooding concerns. Plastic grass was also the subject of a recent misleading advertising ruling over ‘eco-friendly’ claims.
Drive-through owner Harry Rashid, responsible for the felling, posted a video with the tag-line “We Must Look After Our Nature And Green Spaces” which showed his staff volunteering at a local nature reserve. He owns several restaurants in the area and is certainly adept at portraying himself as a force for good in the area.
Campaigners are not impressed by his words and want to see real action to restore the area and make amends.
We will update this article with any updates from the Forestry Commission and any response from McDonald’s.