Plans to stop takeaways opening near schools to cut childhood obesity

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The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed a crackdown on new hot food takeaways near schools to tackle childhood obesity.

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The Mayor of London wants to stop new takeaways opening within 400 metres of schools in the capital

For the first time, the draft London Plan, which is out for consultation today (1 December), contains detailed policy guidance on the Mayor’s manifesto commitment to put restrictions in place around new fast food outlets.

Within the plan, the Mayor of London outlines proposals to encourage boroughs to refuse new planning applications for hot food takeaways within 400 metres walking distance of existing or proposed primary or secondary schools. According to the Mayor, a quarter of the UK’s takeaways are located within a five-minute walk of a school.

Health experts have warned that children heavily exposed to fast food outlets are at greater risk of childhood obesity, as well as heart disease and stroke in later life.

Where new takeaways are granted planning permission, they would be required to sign up to the Healthier Catering Commitment, a scheme supported by the Mayor and promoted by local authorities to help caterers and food businesses make simple, healthy improvements to their food such as grilling or baking instead of frying, and adding less salt.

However, the Mayor of London’s plans would only apply to new takeaways not existing ones, and those classed under planning laws as A5 use, which applies to outlets selling hot food for consumption off premises. This does not include takeaways which operate as restaurants with takeaway capacity as they are classified differently.

Meanwhile, data provided to the Guardian by Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research shows that more than 400 schools across England have 20 or more fast food takeaways within a 400-metre radius. Seven of the ten schools with the highest density of nearby fast food outlets are in London.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said, ‘Takeaway restaurants are a vibrant part of London life, but it’s important that they are not encouraging our children to make poor food choices.

‘I am working hard to create a healthier London and this must start with the food that our children eat. As promised in my manifesto, I am using all of my powers through my new London Plan to prevent new takeaways from being built just down the road from schools as part of a package of measures to tackle the ticking time bomb of childhood obesity and help us all lead healthier lives.

‘A typical fast-food meal contains nearly 60 per cent of recommended daily calories, half of salt and saturated fat and no portions of fruit or vegetables. There is strong evidence that regular consumption of hot food takeaways is associated with weight gain.'

The Mayor’s Healthy Schools London programme is supporting almost 2,000 schools to promote healthy eating and supporting them to provide pupils with nutritious and balanced meals. Tackling childhood obesity is a core focus of his health inequalities strategy, calling on all parts of London – businesses, the NHS and London’s boroughs– to help make London the world’s healthiest city for children to grow up in.

Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board, said, 'It’s great to see changes being introduced to how takeaways operate. There are some areas of the capital with up to 40 fast food outlets within half a mile of schools, enticing children by reducing costs at the same time as they are leaving school. By encouraging existing takeaways to switch to healthier options and cracking down on new takeaways near schools, we can start to tackle the damage being done to our children’s health.’

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