Due to the cost of treating overweight and obese people on the NHS the government have proposed restrictions on food retail within a set distance of schools. In Wrexham one in four children aged 8-9 is deemed as overweight or obese. The report presented says this is ‘exacerbated by the proximity of our schools to fast food outlets’.
The proposal was to introduce a 400 meter zone, which the council see as a 10 minute walking distance, exclusion area around schools which new proposals for such fast food takeaways would be refused. There is no mention of where this 400 meter / 10 minute walking distance figure comes from, perhaps this is to encourage further walking and therefore exercise? The ‘usual’ planning issues would stay in place, such as odour and litter, but add this new exclusion zone to the criteria.
This idea has been put to consultation during May 2011, despite many hearing about this for the first time today and probably reading this. The public awareness is described as a press article appeared on the Daily Mirror website and the ‘Big’ Leader.
The council were given the ‘local planning guidance note no 9’ which defined ‘hot food takeaways’ as those whose primary business is the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises. The council see this as a ‘first step rather than a solution’ to help solve obesity, and recognise that cold foods such as chocolate is not covered by this proposal.
Clr Pritchard called the idea ‘flawed’ as mobile fish and chip vans operate locally , and even if this did not happen then people would eat alternative foods eg. chocolates & crisps. He supported the ideals behind it, but did not support this particular idea. It was clarified that if a mobile van appears regularly on a piece of land then that could be seen as a change of use, likewise if it occurs on a road, then that ought to be dealt with by the highways.
Clr Dutton called the move ‘insidious’, and a method to implement dietry controls via the planning system. This was supported by another Clr who said this was ‘the wrong vehicle’ and educating in terms of culture and lifestyle would be preferable.
Clr Rogers points out that the council would look ‘silly’ as it has just approved the Morrisons store which is mere yards away from a school, which will offer food as well. He went further to put the onus on schools to offer better food and prevent lunchtime leaving by pupils.
Clr Lowe pointed out that acorns often grow to oaks, and due to this such an idea ought not be seen in isolation but as part of a holistic long term aim.
The Executive Board of Wrexham Council deferred the proposal, effectively binning it, but overall the meeting supported the reasons behind it.
( the alternate headline was ‘Takeaways Proposal Battered’ )