Blackpool's battle against obesity could stop fast food restaurants from opening

New takeaways could be stopped from opening in parts of Blackpool as part of the battle against obesity.

Health chiefs in the resort are hoping to reinforce planning controls to restrict the number of junk food outlets fuelling the crisis.

Blackpool's battle against obesity could stop fast food restaurants from opening

Blackpool's battle against obesity could stop fast food restaurants from opening

Figures released last autumn showed the number of takeaways in the town had doubled in the past eight years, meaning Blackpool had the second highest number per head of population in the country.

At the same time, obesity levels are above average – with around a third of adults and a third of primary school children classed as overweight or obese.

Now, regulations are set to be adopted in Blackpool’s new Local Plan which would prevent new takeways opening within 400 metres of neighbourhoods where more than 15 per cent of Year Six pupils or 10 per cent of reception pupils are classed as very overweight.

That, it was confirmed to The Gazette, is currently every part of Blackpool.

The only exception to the proposed policy would be the Promenade, which is deemed to serve the tourism industry.

A council report setting out evidence for the policy, says “there is compelling evidence of associations between obesity, particularly in deprived areas and the availablity of fast food”.

READ MORE: Surge in Blackpool takeaways coincides with rise in obesity

Figures show Blackpol’s three most deprived wards – Talbot, Bloomfield and Claremont have the most hot food takeaways and the heaviest children in the town.

The Bloomfield ward, which encompasses Central Drive, has 58 takeaways – of which 10 are on the Prom – and is the most deprived ward, with almost a quarter of Year Six children considered obese.

The report says “applying this policy will prevent further over-concentrations of hot food takeaways.”

Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool’s director of public health, said the move was part of a range of measures aimed at improving people’s eating habits.

He said: “Where we live has a key role to play in tackling obesity and as a local authority we have a clear challenge in balancing healthier environments and the demand for thriving and vibrant high streets.

“Public health has strong links with planning as the environment is a key determinant of health and wellbeing.

“In particular the food environment plays an important role in promoting a healthy diet including an individual’s proximity to food retail outlets and the type of food available.

“The food environment is constantly evolving with a wide range of choice of what to eat and when to eat.

“While not all fast food is unhealthy, it is typically high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories. Maintaining choice is important but we need to support our residents to easily identify healthy options.”

READ MORE: Fast food limits could be coming to your corner of Lancashire

In January 2016, the council signed a Local Declaration on Healthy Weight as part of its commitment to tackling obesity, and in 2017 it launched the Healthier Choices Award, working with businesses to offer healthier options.

Dr Rajpura added: “This scheme has proved successful with over 100 businesses getting involved, however, in Blackpool we are one of the towns with the highest number of fast food takeaways per head of population and we need to consider ways of reducing the number of these outlets.”

Figures collected by the BBC and published last October show that, since 2010, the number of fast food sellers in Blackpool has increased from 70 to 135.

It means nearly half – 47 per cent – of the resort’s food outlets are selling fast food, adding up to 97 takeaways per 100,000 people and placing the town second only to Westminster in London when it comes to easy access to this type of food.

The proposed restrictions are included in part two of the Blackpool’s Local Plan which is out for consultation until February 19.

A number of other local authorities have already introduced similar controls.

Reaction from some of Blackpool’s takeaway owners has been positive.

Tracy Ogretici, owner of Taylors Fish & Chips on St Annes Road, South Shore, said she agrees with the council’s proposals.

She said: “My first reaction to them is great. There are far too many takeaways in Blackpool saturating the market and some of them are not very nice at all.

“I believe it should be on quality rather than quantity.”

Joseph Hatton, owner of Babylon Blackpool on Waterloo Road, also South Shore, added: “Obesity is a big problem in the country and I would agree with the council’s decision probably.

“There are too many takeaways in Blackpool. We used to have four and we only have the one now.”