400-metre junk food ‘exclusion zones’ to be imposed around Leeds schools

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A 400 metre junk food ‘exclusion zone’ is set to be imposed around Leeds’s schools as the city bids to tackle a growing obesity epidemic.

The ban comes as part of a proposed new clampdown on the numbers of takeaways in district centres and neighbourhoods.

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The YEP previously revealed there are almost 1,000 takeaways and fast food joints in the city, and licensing bosses receive scores of new applications every year with little power to refuse them. Research shows one in five adults in Leeds is classified obese, and more than a THIRD of children are overweight.

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A six-week consultation is now about to be launched on a new hardline local planning policy which would allow decision-makers to ban any new junk food outlets within 400 metres - or 10 minutes’ walk - of school grounds.

It would also allow for caps on takeaway numbers, to help bring a more diverse food offer to neighbourhoods already seen as bad health hotspots.

A major inquiry into HFTs (hot food takeaways) in Leeds was launched last year after a White Paper Motion was brought to Leeds City Council’s monthly full council debate session by councillor Tom Leadley.

His concerns arose out of an earlier public inquiry into the refusal of a plan for a McDonald’s drive-through at a former pub in Tingley, which is also near Woodkirk Academy.

People power eventually defeated the fast food giant, with the plan refused by council bosses FIVE times - and the appeal dismissed by a planning inspector - before the firm eventually walked away.

Coun Leadley said that during the four day public inquiry, one full day had been spent arguing about hot food takeaway policy.

However the inspector “disregarded all that”, he added, because it was not already enshrined in planning policy.

Councillor Leadley said this had “silently underlined” the need for a specific clause on hot food takeaways in local policy.

He told colleagues that he had been contacted by one member of the public who wanted “a complete moratorium” on any new takeaways in Leeds.

“That’s a bit too far,” he said. “However if people are of that view, then they can put that forward when the six week consultation is open.”

Despite the new zero tolerance approach to junk food, some concerns have been raised that there could be a negative economic impact on the local economy in district centres, for example if shop units end up remaining empty long term as a result of the clampdown.

Fiona Venner, chair of Leeds City Council’s Development Plans Panel, which helps formulate future local planning policy, asked colleagues to consider the question of: “Would vibrancy and vitality [of the local economy] trump our concerns about obesity and health issues around hot food takeaways?”

Garforth Labour councillor Stuart McKenna said the more important point was that “there are too many areas in Leeds where you can drive round and it’s packed with hot food takeaways”.

He said he would like to see the council allowed to be “a bit stronger” with its policy, adding that it was “a little bit worrying” that one junk food outlet could move in one day, and “another could come in tomorrow and it would all get voted through”.

Headingley councillor Neil Walshaw, whose student-heavy ward is one of the city’s worst junk food hotspots, said: “At this point there are very limited planning grounds on which we can refuse [takeaway applications].

“Looking forward, we will be in a much better place to provide a filter that is much more effective.”

The panel was told that Leeds is “close to the national obesity average but that is no reason for not doing better”.

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