400m junk food '˜exclusion zones' to be imposed around Leeds schools

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.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 6:47 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:51 am

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

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.

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 400m - or 10 minutes walk - of school grounds.

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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 before the firm walked away.

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

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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.

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 shops 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?”