Fast food planning conflicts in Victoria 1969–2012: is every unhappy family restaurant unhappy in its own way?

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In 2012, a planning application for a McDonald's ‘convenience restaurant’ in Tecoma, Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges region, was approved at Victoria's planning tribunal. Although generating a high-profile backlash, the Tecoma McDonald's was far from being Australia's, Victoria's, or even the immediate region's first to encounter a campaign of place-protective opposition. The Tolstoy truism holds that ‘every happy family is alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. Franchised ‘family restaurants’ are premised on and perhaps defined by being recognisable alike. Yet as Massey argues, seemingly aspatial phenomena are always mediated by local context. This paper argues that local statutory planning has been central to the expansion of fast food chains, with globalisation tending to be accompanied by increasingly defensive legal boundaries. To demonstrate this, the paper explores a group of fast food outlets that experienced some form of local ‘unhappiness’ – 37 planning appeals involving opposition to fast food outlets in Victoria over 1969–2012. The paper explores how planning provisions applicable to fast food developments have shifted and how these shifts, in turn, have determined the permissible boundaries of planning decisions around them. Hall once reported finding himself describing the containment of urban England in ‘terminology appropriate to boxing or all-in wrestling’ (90). Here I borrow Hall's boxing analogy by suggesting six boxing-inspired rules, codified over time, applicable to the Tecoma McDonald's. These statutory details resemble the legal and physical boundaries within which, in boxing, blows are landed – but always by the book.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-126
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Planner
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • fast food
  • land use conflict
  • localism
  • Melbourne
  • statutory reform

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