Plea to give Calderdale planners more power to limit takeaways and tackle obesity crisis

fast food
fast food

Calderdale Council has been urged to give planners stronger powers to limit the number and density of takeaways in Calderdale, for health reasons.

Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) told members of Calderdale Council’s Cabinet takeaways clustered in areas of deprivation and this had an effect in those areas on obesity.

However Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) warned the council could take “nanny” type interventions too far and reduce choice for the customer.

Councillors were told obesity is a serious health problem in Calderdale and Cabinet agreed to sign up to the Local Government Declaration on Healthy Weight, which will introduce 14 general aims and another seven goals particular to the borough into policy-making.

Included in the report were planning policies submitted with Calderdale’s Local Plan, which is out for inspection, including one which would see takeaways allowed to be developed providing they were not within 400 metres of the principal entry point of a school, except where the application site was within a designated town centre area.

But Coun Hutchinson urged Cabinet to tighten this up to address what he said was a problem with clusters of takeaways in areas of deprivation and the resulting effect on diet and health.

Other boroughs, for example St Helens, had given planners more powers to tackle the issue, he said.

“I really urge this to be revisited as a means to limit density and number of hot food takeaways,” said Coun Hutchinson.

However, Coun Baker said: “I’m not a huge fan of top-down control of where a takeaway can or can’t be, it restricts people’s freedom of choice.”

Making good advice available was a better measure and although there were good things in the report it was very “corporate”, he felt.

Coun Baker also said it as important to differentiate between people being overweight or obese, they were two different things.

The report said almost 70 per cent of adults in Calderdale are overweight or obese, with the implications that brings for health, and also identified a worrying trend for young people, with 22.6 per cent of reception age class children and 34.3 per sent of children taking their next step to secondary school in the same category.

Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) did not agree with his criticism of a “top down” approach.

“It’s about the responsibility of a council to provide a framework in which people can eat healthily and exercise,” she said.

Cabinet member for Public Health and Cohesion, Coun Faisal Shoukat (Lab, Park) said the report identified challenges over what could be a real burden on health services if not tackled.

In terms of the numbers and terminology, he said body mass index figures were widely used and indicated where health problems might arise.

Specifically in Calderdale, the council should develop its Active Calderdale programme, take action to grow with partners a healthy food programme, make policy changes to achieve goals, promote workplace health and wellbeing among its own employees, develop and deliver an award scheme for local eateries linked to the food hygiene rating scheme, plan and take local action that will impact in food and climate change and develop a ratings system to encourage and support healthy eating and physical activity for early years school children, said the report to councillors.

Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said adopting the declaration was important because the council did not want people in Calderdale to suffer ill health which also had financially implications when health issues arising from obesity had to be dealt with further down the line.