Obesity 'superzone' could see new takeaways banned near Portsmouth schools

Arundel Court Primary School in Portsmouth. Picture Ian Hargreaves  (151226-4)
Arundel Court Primary School in Portsmouth. Picture Ian Hargreaves (151226-4)
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NEW FAST food takeaways could be banned within a certain range of Portsmouth schools as part of a 'superzone' scheme to crack down on childhood obesity.

Portsmouth council will consider trialling a variety of health-boosting measures within a 400m radius of schools - starting with a pilot at Arundel Court Primary Academy in Landport.

Using suggestions from pupils at the primary school the restrictions within the superzone could see a ban on any new hot food takeaways, closures of nearby streets during the start and end of the school day and prohibiting smoking at the school gates.

It comes as recent statistics from the national child measurement programme showed children in Portsmouth are more likely to be overweight or obese than the rest of England.

In 2017/18 24.5 per cent of reception age children were overweight or obese  in Portsmouth, more than the national average of 22.4 per cent. And 10.7 per cent were obese, compared to 9.5 per cent nationally.

Figures increased for Year 6 children in the city as 21.7 per cent were obese - nationally 20.1 per cent of Year 6 children are.

Claire Currie, a consultant for Public Health England in Portsmouth, said: 'Nationally childhood obesity is a really important problem and it is no different here in Portsmouth, so it is a worry. We know that one in four children in reception are overweight or obese and in Year 6 one in three are.

'Being overweight raises huge health concerns not just around physical wellbeing but also emotional wellbeing. These problems can stay with someone their whole life.

'Clearly there is no one answer - there's no magic bullet. What is really powerful here is that the children at Arundel Court told us what they wanted to be done.'

If approved Portsmouth will be among the first authorities to operate a superzone, with trials currently taking place in Bradford in Yorkshire and 13 London boroughs.

For the council's education boss Councillor Suzy Horton, the children played a key role. She said: 'This was completely led by the children and by doing it this way you start to see that shift in attitudes because they will go home and tell their parents about it - they become teachers themselves.

'And it's important to remember this brings together so many things - health, the environment and clean air and safety - but it's also something that can bring together a community because it affects us all.'

Mary Keable, the key stage 1 leader at Arundel Court Primary Academy, added: 'As a school we're really interested to see the impact that these suggested changes could make in our community and we're pleased to have been involved in this project.'

In the 400m radius around Arundel Court Primary Academy there are almost 20 hot food outlets including a Chinese restaurant, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Greggs, Burger King and a KFC. There is also a milkshake bar called Shakeaway.

Recently Portsmouth City Council has considered other plans to tackle obesity such as banning fast food outlets in buildings owned by the council and play streets, which allow children to play in their roads for a few hours at a time. 

But Tory Cllr Luke Stubbs branded plans to cut down on fast food 'ridiculous'. 'Most takeaways aren't even open at the same time as schools,' he said.

'It's a red herring - it's about taking away adults’ rights because the government thinks we should be eating a certain way.

'The 400m radius in an urban area covers an awful lot. All this is going to do is increase the number of empty shops - takeaways are one of the only things that are expanding.'

The superzone scheme also includes offering healthier food in schools, greening works to routes into schools and encouraging children to take part in a daily mile-long walk.

A decision on whether to trial the superzone will be made at a health and wellbeing board meeting on Wednesday, September 25.

Parents have their say on the proposal

IF A superzone is introduced around Arundel Court Primary it could mean big changes for both the children and their parents.

We spoke to some of the parents to hear what they thought of the proposals.

Buckland resident Cherelle Ash, 26, said: 'I think it's good because children need healthy options. Overweight children is child abuse really. Letting your child become overweight is dangerous for them now and in later life because unhealthy eating habits do follow you through into later life.'

For Hajira Hasan, 36, who lives in Arundel Street it was a good opportunity. She said: 'I think it's a very good proposition as it will work in favour of the people.

'Being a parent it's very difficult especially around this school, crossing the road in the morning and we always have the fear that the cars won't stop. If the superzone means that during picking up and dropping off time traffic will be under control it will be a big help.

'Teaching about healthy diets is also something that helps regarding the children.'

Landport mum Nia Jones, 25, added: 'It's going to cause chaos if the roads are closed but the healthy eating will be good.'

Kathleen Gaymer, 28, who lives in Hale Street South said: 'I think it will reduce obesity in children because there will be less takeaways so children won't be influenced to buy them.

'Car-wise I think because of the reduced pollution from petrol and fumes their lungs should be cleaner.'

Dad Matt Fordham, 34, from Landport said: 'I think it will be a great idea for the kids to be less exposed to unhealthy eating.

'And the roads around here cars do fly around them from time to time so I think it'll be a great idea just for people to be a little bit mindful.'

His views were met by Donna Hudson, 38, who lives in Percy Chandler Street. 'It's really good, people do need to walk more and we should have less takeaways,' she said.

What takeaways had to say

'WE WILL continue to invest to do the right thing' - fast-food giants had their say on proposals for a superzone.

In the 400m radius around Arundel Court Primary Academy there are almost 20 hot food outlets including a Chinese restaurant, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Greggs, Burger King, a KFC and Subway.

A McDonald’s spokesman said they would be 'consulting' with the council. He said: 'Health and wellbeing is an important issue and is one which industry has a responsible role to play, and we look forward to consulting with the council on their proposal.

'Today, nearly 90 per cent of our menu is under 500 calories, nutritional information is clearly displayed and we have invested millions in technology which has enabled us to display information in a different way and show the breadth of our menu – such as salads, low or no sugar drinks and fruit bags. We will continue to invest to do the right thing.'