EXCLUSIVE: ‘I’ve had enough’ says disabled Cookstown woman affected by KFC build

Workmen at old Rodney Cole site in Cookstown, where new KFC will be located. INMM3814-400
Workmen at old Rodney Cole site in Cookstown, where new KFC will be located. INMM3814-400

A house-bound disabled woman living in the wake of construction works for a KFC she spent 18 months opposing said she now feels like she has no other option but to leave her home of 14 years.

Diane Sprake, who suffers from a raft of serious health problems including ankylosing spondylitis, which has caused bones in her neck and spine to fuse together, and lupus, spends much of her life at home and can only go out with the aid of a mobility scooter.

The 59-year-old, who needs a lot of sleep - a symptom of her condition - told the Mail ongoing noise from construction works directly behind her house have made her life unbearable, affecting her sleep, health and mental wellbeing.

Hitting out at planners, she said: “On Bank Holiday Monday at 7am they cut the gates down and started work - no notification at all.”

Diane said she and others had opposed the KFC over concerns about noise and odour pollution, extra traffic and the eatery’s opening hours, which have now been scaled back to 11am-11pm - still too late according to Diane.

But she said she is most upset that after her opposition no-one told her the fight had been lost.

Feeling let down, she added: “We were not spoken to, and were treated as if we’re not really that terribly important.

“That’s what it comes down to essentially - we argued and argued, and it came to nothing in the end.

“I’m as depressed by the fact that we lost the battle, as by the ongoing noise and the fact that we’ve been let down.

Diane went on to tell this paper, how, from a daily rising time of 11am, she now wakes shortly after builders start working around 7am and that this has really affected her.

“I’m just aggravated and I’m very sore,” she said.

“I’m not enjoying my life, I’m not enjoying my house. I don’t use my garden anymore, that’s from I knew this was coming. I lost interest in it.

“It used to be that I had a little bit of pride in it and I would sit out there in the space.

“I do have a very nice space out there, but it’s just noisy,” she added.

“I intend to move out - I’m not going to stay. I’ve had enough now.”

Diane also said she is very worried for the future of Cookstown if it is to follow towns across the UK in welcoming multi-nationals.

“The bit that really peeves me is the broader picture of what this town’s becoming,” she said.

“When you go into other towns, and as you come to the edge you see Lidl and Asda and they all look the same.

“This little place used to be kinda cute,” she added, “you come past a pretty roundabout with flowers and into the retail capital of Mid Ulster and what do you see? - ‘McDonalds, KFC’.

Diane said she really wished other uses for the site had been considered.

“This area is a mile from town,” she said, “and we don’t have a pharmacy down here.”

In response to Diane’s points, a DOE spokesperson said: “The Planning Department issued letters on the 10th July 2014 to all those who had formally objected to application I/2013/0377/F (restaurant with drive-thru) informing them that the application had been approved.

“Diane Sprake of Gortalowry Park, Cookstown would not have got a letter as her signature was part of a petition, therefore the lead objector on the petition would have been the only one to receive a letter.

“There are no planning restrictions on the permission restricting construction hours. Unacceptable noise nuisance will usually fall within the remit of the local Environmental Health Department to investigate and take appropriate action, if felt necessary.

“No planning applications have been submitted on the site for any alternative use since the closure of the car showroom which previously occupied the site.”

Director of Environmental Health & Building Control, Mark Kelso, told the Mail that various changes had been made to the initial plans following a series of consultations.

“These include the installation of an appropriate noise reduction barrier between the commercial premises and the adjacent residential properties.

“The use of noise and odour control systems to minimise the impact of noise breakout and/or odour to neighbouring residential properties.

And “The setting of specific hours of trading during which the premises will be permitted to trade (11.00 am – 11.00 pm).

“Following Ms Sprake’s complaint,” he added, “Officers from the Department have carried out monitoring visits and will continue to ensure that there is minimal interference from construction noise on-site, as required for a development of this nature.”

KFC were also asked to comment, but had not replied by the time this went to print.