Tougher planning rules for takeaways could reduce childhood obesity

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STRICTER planning conditions on takeaways could help to combat childhood obesity in the city, experts and councillors have said.

At at health overview and scrutiny panel on Thursday members discussed ways to tackle the rising number of overweight children in Portsmouth including tougher regulations on hot food outlets and encouraging people to walk more.

Portsmouth has 269 fast food restaurants. Picture: Shutterstock

Portsmouth has 269 fast food restaurants. Picture: Shutterstock

Dr Jason Horsley, director of public health in Portsmouth, was concerned that current measures to address the issue were not effective. Speaking to the panel he said: 'We've ended up trying to manage what we do with children who are already obese. The reality is unless we shift resources into preventing it we're not going to achieve the aims we want as a society.

'It costs so much more to treat them than to prevent it.'

Figures released earlier this year from Public Health England (PHE) revealed that Portsmouth has 269 fast food restaurants which includes places selling sandwiches, burgers, chips, fried chicken, pizzas, kebabs and international cuisines. The data showed the city’s rate was 126 outlets per 100,000 people.

Dr Horsley feared takeaways were part of the problem. 'In Portsmouth we have a high proportion of fast food outlets,' he said.

'That then creates an adverse food environment for children.

'For me prevention is much more around how we build our physical environments, what it is we do to change the way we move around and the availability of food in our environment.'

He noted that council planning rules in other areas of the country had begun to address this and added: 'In Newcastle in 2015 it was decided that for any new fast food outlets to get planning permission they should undertake a health impact assessment that consider how and where children congregate rather than just limiting the outlets to 400 metres from schools.

'Since then they had no future applications for hot food outlets. An element of what we do should be placing these kinds of restrictions on takeaway applications.'

Cllr Marge Harvey from Hampshire County Council, felt this could be taken further. She commented: 'As far as planning is concerned if these people want to put hot food places in they will go to the inspector and they will say yes.

'Could we have these hot food places put something in the section 106 agreement that puts money towards encouraging other transport options?'

There are currently five McDonald's restaurants in the city, and 12 in the wider area including Fareham, Gosport and Havant.

A McDonald’s spokesman commented: 'We share the ambition to reduce childhood obesity in the region and are committed to helping our customers to make informed choices.

'Almost 90 per cent of our standard menu is under 500 calories, we never market products classified as high in fat, salt or sugar to children in any media channel and we have provided nutritional information for the past 30 years.'