Research shows the impact of Council's blanket ban on new takeaways
Gateshead Council has taken a blanket ban approach to new applications for fast food takeaways, to improve health and tackle childhood obesity.
New research co-authored by Fuse academics evaluated if Gateshead’s approach to planning had any significant impact in comparison to other local authorities in the North East which did not have any type of planning guidance.
It found that by using all of the planning policy available, the Council has been able to reduce the proportion of fast-food outlets in the borough by 14 percent. It also reduced the density of takeaway outlets available to around 13 less outlets for every 100,000 residents.
Gateshead has higher than the average national levels of children who are either overweight or obese, and research has shown that the food available close to where people are, is likely to influence what they eat, and therefore their health.
It is also known that the food offered by takeaway outlets can contribute to becoming overweight or obese if they are eaten frequently.
As part of work to support the health of residents, Gateshead Council took the decision (in 2015) to use the planning policy available to them, to prevent any further fast-food outlets opening in the borough. These were:
- Restricting new fast-food outlets near schools
- Restricting new fast-food outlets if the density of existing outlets has surpassed a certain threshold of all retail outlets (no more than 20% of all outlets can be fast-food)
- Restricting new fast-food outlets if childhood obesity rates are above a certain threshold (no more than 20% based upon data from National Childhood Measurement Programme for children aged 4-5 and 10-11).
The study was led by Professor Heather Brown, Fuse Associate at Lancaster University, and co-authored by Fuse Deputy Director Professor Amelia Lake (Teesside University); and fellow Fuse Associates Nasima Akhter (Durham University); Huasheng Xiang, Louis Goffe and John Wildman (Newcastle University).
Importance for planning policy
The results provide important evidence for both local and national government on useful ways to promote a healthier environment in a short space of time.
The research identified that it is also important to consider these findings in the context of proposed changes to planning legislation and how local government can make a difference to their environment in the future.
Professor Heather Brown, formerly of Newcastle University where she co-led the Fuse Health Inequalities Research Programme, said: "Obesity is a complex health issue that stems from a variety of causes, but we do know that where we live and work influences the food that we eat, our weight, and our health.
"The use of planning policy can be one way for both local and national government to help shape a healthier environment – by limiting or restricting where certain types of food outlets can be located, and this research supports that."
- Consideration should be given that the growth of food ordering platforms may limit how planning guidance can influence local area obesity rates in the future.
- There needs to be better coordination between national and local government to develop a strategy to make sure the environment in which we live is health promoting.
- Further research is needed to understand if reducing the number of fast-food outlets has an impact on diet and related health conditions, including obesity and other diet-related diseases.
The next step is to look at if this change in the density and proportion of fast-food outlets has had any impact on childhood overweight and obesity between 2015 to 2019, and if this did anything to reduce inequalities in childhood weight.
The findings have been published in The Journal of Social Science and Medicine (August 2022).
The research project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria.
Read the full paper: No new fast-food outlets allowed! Evaluating the effect of planning policy on the local food environment in the North East of England
Read Professor Heather Brown's accompanying Fuse blog post: What impact did a blanket ban on new takeaways have in Gateshead?
Adapted with thanks to the NIHR ARC NENC
Last modified: Thu, 01 Sep 2022 07:59:13 BST