Council to explore if there is a need to ban new fast food restaurants near schools and parks in South Northamptonshire

The issue was debated at The Forum in Towcester this week
The issue was debated at The Forum in Towcester this week

A ban on fast food takeaways opening near schools and parks is being considered by councillors in South Northamptonshire in a bid to curb childhood obesity.

A growing number of councils across the UK are developing planning policies to restrict the number of hot food takeaways near places where young people congregate, with the aim of preventing obesity and unhealthy diets.

And while it has not committed to such a policy just yet, South Northamptonshire Council has agreed to look at whether there is enough evidence to potentially implement any restrictions in the future.

There has been an overall increase in the percentage of children in the area classified as ‘overweight’ from 2006-07 through to 2012-13 for both four to five-year-olds and ten to 11-year olds, while 68.2 per cent of adults in South Northamptonshire carry excess weight, which is higher than the national average of 65 per cent.

In 2010, Barking and Dagenham became the first UK council to try to limit the number of fast food outlets.

Now, about 20 local authorities in England have adopted similar policies, with nearby Milton Keynes now also exploring the possibility of a ban near schools.

The subject was discussed at the latest planning policy committee meeting at The Forum in Towcester on Wednesday evening (March 20). But some councillors had concerns over the idea.

Councillor Elaine Wiltshire felt that to include parks within the policy could potentially cause some problems.

She said: “You look at Brackley High Street and you have a Domino’s and a cafe that most of the sixth form students use. Some schools don’t have kitchens where they can get their lunch.

“But we have to be careful with parks. If you have a cafe next to a park then you need these cafes to encourage people to use the parks.”

And Councillor Sandi Smallman said: “I’m not sure we need to be that much of a nanny state. Where do you draw the line? I think this is something we could do without.”

But portfolio holder for planning, Councillor Roger Clarke, said introducing such a policy into the area’s Local Plan was ‘the right thing to do’.

In September 2017 on average 2.6 takeaways were located 400 metres from a school in England, compared with 2.3 in June 2014. This has resulted in about a quarter of the UK’s takeaways being located within a five-minute walk of a school.