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Fast food shops to be restricted?

Many local authorities, including Southwark,are consulting on measures to restrict the number of fast food outlets in local shopping areas.

The Government report Health, Weight, Healthy Lives (2008) encourages local authorities to use planning regulations to restrict the availability of fast food around schools:

“Local authorities can use existing planning powers to control more carefully the number and location of fast food outlets in their local areas. The Government will promote these powers to local authorities and PCTs to highlight the impact that they can have on promoting healthy weight, for instance through managing the proliferation of fast food outlets, particularly in proximity to parks and schools.”

This advice was supported by the NICE public health guidance, Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. NICE recommended encouraging planning authorities “to restrict planning permission for take-aways and other food retail outlets in specific areas (for example, within walking distance of schools).”

A survey undertaken by Experian Goad in 2010 counted a total of 22 hot food takeaways out of 444 units in Rye Lane and Peckham High Street.

Southwark has among the highest rates of obesity in schoolchildren of any borough in the UK. Data on obesity among Southwark children comes from the Association of Public Health which has a schools measurement programme recording the height and weight of all children in reception and year six. In 2009/10, Nunhead and Peckham Rye had 14.4% of children overweight and 16.2% obese. Peckham had 15.8% of children overweight and 23.2% obese. There are wide variations in obesity between schools across the borough, however Peckham community council area has the second highest obese rate in children after Bermondsey.

Southwark are consulting on the three following options:

Option 1 Restricting takeaways in shopping areas

To restrict the number of hot food takeaways (A5 use class) in the town centre and/or within other protected shopping frontages and local centres.

Option 2 Exclusion zone

To introduce an exclusion zone around schools where new hot food takeaways will not be given planning permission.

Option 3 Restricting as set out in current retail policies

To continue with existing policy and restrict hot food takeaways in the same way as other hot food shops in line with amenity and development management policies in the Southwark plan. ”

Birmingham Council are also keen to cap fast food outlets. Proposals for a planning regime which would limit the number of fast food outlets allowedin any one of 73 defined local shopping areas within Birmingham have been unveiled for consultation by the city council.

This proposal, drawn up in a Shopping and Local Centres Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), sets maximum levels for non-retail units and fast food outlets within ‘local centres’, beyond which planning approval for new premises would not be granted.

A recent landmark ruling by the High Court has given strength to the view that the proximity of fast food outlets to local schools should be a consideration in planning.

A judge declared that Tower Hamlets Council in East  London “acted unlawfully” when it gave the go-ahead for “Fried & Fabulous” to open for business at 375  Cable Street, Shadwell, close to Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School.

The judge said councillors had voted in favour of permission after being wrongly directed that they could not take account of the proximity of the local secondary school because it was not “a material planning consideration”.