"CREDITON could soon have a McDonald's restaurant and drive-thru..." announced last week's "Crediton Courier".
McDonald's already has around 1,300 sites in the UK, so the company's recent application to install one more burger and milkshake outlet at Crediton's Wellparks retail park can't be that controversial, can it?
After all, who'd want to turn down a useful new investment promising 30 new full-time jobs and many more part-time ones?
Surely one more dining outlet, adding to those already at The Red Deer, Tesco and Mole Avon, can only enhance the attraction of Crediton as Mid Devon's centre of hospitality?
However, Crediton is clearly divided over the prospect of McDonald's coming to town.
It can't really be about the food. Equally mediocre meals have long been available in the town and no-one seems to be complaining about that.
In fact Crediton's takeaway and fast-food sector is a major (if unacknowledged) success story. This part of our local economy serves many local workers and families too tired to cook an evening meal, and provides for hundreds of commuters passing through our town every day.
But McDonald's is different, and the question is not about fast food. It's about what we think about McDonald's as a global mass-market brand and its iconic golden arches.
What does it mean for Crediton? Does Crediton share the same kind of values as McDonald's? This is existential stuff. What kind of town do we really think we are?
To answer this, one might turn to the recently published Crediton Neighbourhood Plan (available at Crediton Library) which drew on years of community consultation. Unfortunately it doesn't make any references to multi-national food outlets, being more concerned with the quality of the town centre and its local heritage than with global retail interlopers erecting brash neon signs on our outskirts.
But it does make mention of Sustainability, warning of the "degradation of the environment from litter to loss of green spaces" - both of which might be relevant to this planning application. The Neighbourhood Plan is also in favour of "(buying) food that is grown locally”.
It would be a stretch to call McDonald's minced beef and potatoes sourced from UK farms far beyond Devon's rolling hills locally grown.
Furthermore "Our aim," says the Neighbourhood Plan, "is to create a community which is less dependent on fossil fuels..."
So an application for a McDonald's "drive-thru” - even our "Crediton Courier" re-prints this provocative Americanism! - celebrating the convenience of car-ownership is definitely in conflict with local intentions to reduce unnecessary car journeys.
The Neighbourhood Plan has a palpable air of nostalgia when discussing Crediton's status as "a small market town ... situated between the rivers Yeo and Creedy”.
This rosy picture of heritage-town Crediton is at odds with reality - ie: the massive blight caused by haulage traffic, delivery and public service vehicles, school buses, traders' vans and private motorcars on our main High Street thoroughfare.
This is the actual nature of Crediton experienced daily by thousands of people. The A377, from Exeter to Barnstaple, with its numerous tributaries, funnels a vast procession of diesel and petrol-driven vehicles in either direction along Crediton's High Street where, due to the absence of a by-pass, it meets the busy circular motion of local residents going about their business - school runs, shopping trips, visits to the doctor, meeting-up for coffee and so on.
Let's face it, the congested High Street is most people's experience. Crediton isn't a pretty town, so let's not get too hung-up about a few neon signs at Wellparks drumming up extra evening business.
Mid Devon District Council's planning portal has already published letters both in support and objecting to the McDonald's application.
One Sandford resident writes that Crediton is "a self sufficient market town with many independent cafes and restaurants. A McDonald's will be to the detriment of these" (though they don't say why).
More ominously, the person (he/she) warns that it "will add to the obesity problem”. However a letter in support of the application says "A bit of American-style roadside razzmatazz won't go amiss in Crediton," (but this correspondent states they live at Cowley Bridge, so perhaps they don't count?!)
Maybe around half of Crediton's population thinks McDonald's will be a great new addition, while the other half can imagine nothing worse.
Hopefully both sides will be happy when it opens.
Those who like the convenience (and taste) of takeaways and fast food will be delighted to have another option to choose from.
And if the arrival of this global super-brand in our modest market town has the effect of encouraging some long-standing food outlets to modernise and up their game, the rest of the population should be just as pleased.
St Lawrence Green