Fast food giant McDonald's has won approval for its Wongawilli outlet in the Land and Environment Court, with the decision overruling Wollongong City Council's objections.
The drive-through restaurant will be able to operate between 5am and midnight, seven days a week, with two large pylon signs to be erected, 83 car parking spaces. A proposed and a child care centre with space for 100 children adjacent will not go ahead.
A community campaign had been waged against the planned McDonald's since 2019, with nearby residents saying they bought homes in the new village developments with no idea they may soon have a view of the golden arches from their house.
Natasha Panetta was involved in the campaign and was among the residents devastated by the decision.
"[We] feel really deflated and let down by the entire system that we thought was designed to protect us, and protect our biggest life investments, our homes," she said.
"It is defeated by this approval at the LEC and it means the green light really as a precedent for McDonald's to do this in our regions and areas like ours, where like many including town planners, councillors, lawyers and developers all thought this was never possible in the village setting.
"I live in Sanctuary Ponds, the development is around 80m from my front door, and will have a massive impact not only for the outlook for our home, the conditions living across from this with traffic, rubbish/environmental impacts on the ponds but most the noise and issues for my children, one of which has the bedroom at the front of the house. And also saleability or potential pool of buyers to now sell."
Acting Commissioner Philip Clay ruled against the council's concerns over traffic, and the concern that traffic may become banked up onto the main road, disrupting the intersection.
"The degree of further slowing, whilst enabling the evident prioritisation of pedestrian movement will only be marginal," he said.
"It is the obligation of motorists in any event to give way to pedestrians and common sense suggests that motorists in this location would be slowing further for any crossing pedestrians in any event. The raised crossing makes it clear and obvious that pedestrians are prioritised."
He found there was no need for further consultation over the proposed conditions, and there may be some modifications that still needed to be worked out.
"In my view there is no statutory obligation for further public participation, and to the extent that whether any utility would be served by further public participation, I observe that the public participation to date has been extensive and has dealt with all the issues the subject of the first judgment and these reasons," he said.
A McDonald's Australia spokeswoman said the company was pleased with the decision and defended the decision to push ahead despite council and community opposition.
"The Wongawilli site is zoned for commercial development and the application has been fairly assessed on its merits," she said.
"McDonald's has been open and transparent with the community and Council throughout each stage of the development application process and will continue to do so.
"The development will generate approximately 150 jobs during construction and once operational, McDonald's will create a further 100 new employment opportunities for Wollongong locals in fulltime, part-time and casual roles."