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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Newcastle takeaway crackdown as fast food chains banned from opening near schools

New takeaways will be banned from opening across most of Newcastle, in an effort to combat worrying obesity rates in the city.

Councillors have signed off on a major crackdown on hot food takeaways, imposing strict limits on where they can be located.

Restrictions agreed by Newcastle City Council’s cabinet on Monday night mean that no new fast food joints will be allowed to set up in wards where more than 10% of Year 6 pupils are obese – currently every single part of the city, aside from the wealthy suburbs of Gosforth and South Jesmond.

They will also be banned from opening within 400m or a 10-minute walk of schools, parks, and community centres, as well as in wards where the volume of takeaways exceeds the UK average.

Those limits, set out in a new supplementary planning document (SPD), will be in force everywhere in Newcastle other than in its retail core in the heart of the city centre and will apply to both new-build and change of use planning applications.

The dangers of schoolchildren being exposed to more unhealthy food has been a topic of controversy in Newcastle over recent years, with plans to open a McDonald’s near Kenton School and a Burger King on Westgate Road prompting backlashes from local communities.

Labour cabinet member Coun Alex Hay told a civic centre meeting that two-thirds of adults in the city are overweight or obese and 29.1% of children, compared to 22.7% across England, and that those figures are expected to get worse.

He also warned that the problem is of greatest concern in the more deprived areas of Newcastle.

Figures published last year revealed how 47% of children in Walker are overweight or obese, compared to just 18.9% just a few miles away in North Jesmond.

A report to the cabinet said that preventing more takeaways from opening would offer new opportunities to “create more choice in what is available, for example healthier eating options, physical activity options or arts and cultural opportunities which contribute to wellbeing”.

It adds: “Whilst it is recognised that hot food takeaways provide economic and employment opportunities, contribute towards the food offer and occupy commercial units which may have remained vacant, when compared to other retail uses, they have a greater potential to have a detrimental impact on residential amenity and environmental quality and typically offer unhealthy food choices.”

Cllr Karen Kilgour, the council’s deputy leader, said on Monday that the crackdown would help cut costs to the health and social care system in years to come, as well as helping combat weight and health inequality issues in the city now.

City council leader Nick Kemp called the new restrictions an “exceptional piece of work”, which would also help keep streets cleaner by reducing the amount of litter produced from takeaway packaging.

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