Residents of luxury Madrid estate halt construction of McDonald’s

Protestors in exclusive area of Pozuelo say license for restaurant was unlawfully awarded

Construction work on a McDonald's across from the luxury estate Somosaguas Centro.
Construction work on a McDonald's across from the luxury estate Somosaguas Centro.Jaime Villanueva

Residents of a luxury estate in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a dormitory town outside Madrid, have managed to halt construction of a branch of McDonald’s across from their homes.

The move comes after months of protests by inhabitants of Somosaguas Centro, where the fast-food restaurant was already starting to go up on land zoned for public and social use.

The Somosaguas area has the highest average income per capita in Madrid, housing La Finca, which is Spain’s most secure residential estate and home to the likes of soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, and Somosaguas Norte, where late Santander bank chairman Emilio Botín used to live.

The Somosaguas area has the highest average income per capita in Madrid

The plan to build a branch of the fast food chain outside the Somosaguas Centro estate has put outraged locals on the warpath.

Now, after hanging signs from their balconies and filing a petition calling for the project to be halted with Pozuelo authorities, residents who feared for their “quality of life” claimed a victory last Friday: at 8pm, the local government announced that construction work was being temporarily put on hold.

The owners of the land where the US chain wants to build the restaurant feel the decision is an “outrage,” and trust that the matter will soon be resolved in their favor.

But Miguel Ángel Berzal, a local councilor with newcomer party Ciudadanos, says the freeze “shows that there may have been a regulatory infringement or violation when the license was awarded.”

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In a note sent to both the protestors and the land owners, the local council admitted that there was “a reasonable doubt” that the license may have been “erroneously” awarded.

The plot of land is zoned for public and social use, but the McDonald’s project was presented as an annex to a larger building destined to house a medical center. As such, the plan was approved and a license extended on May 22 to a company named Sociedad Invertradis SL.

Ever since then, residents have claimed that the restaurant’s activity was going to “far exceed” that of the clinic, and that this was a case of legal fraud.

Martín Gómez, one of the three owners of Invertradis, told EL PAÍS that he had been subjected to “brutal harassment” by residents of Somosaguas, including “phone calls at home at five in the morning.” But he trusts that his project will be successfully completed.

“We are not contemplating a scenario of having our license revoked, because it was lawfully awarded,” he said.

Pozuelo de Alarcón has been run by the center-right Popular Party (PP) since 1983. One former mayor, Jesús Sepúlveda, is embroiled in the Gürtel case, the largest bribes-for-contracts scandal ever uncovered in Spain.

English version by Susana Urra.

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