New planning guidance could be introduced to limit the proliferation of hot food takeaways in the City of Wolverhampton.
The proportion of hot food takeaways in and around Wolverhampton is significantly higher than the national average, and so the City of Wolverhampton Council is taking action to manage the number of new takeaways opening within the City and district centres.
And with latest data showing obesity among children and young people to be a major problem with half of Year 6 pupils in Wolverhampton either overweight or obese, the council is also seeking to restrict new takeaways from opening within walking distance of secondary schools in the City.
Research shows there is more than one hot food takeaway per 1,000 people in Wolverhampton; nationally the average is just 0.86.
Councillors will be asked next week to approve draft planning guidance which will restrict new hot food takeaways from opening in shopping centres or parades where there are already a high percentage of such retailers.
It will supplement existing guidance on takeaways which is already being applied in various places including the City centre, Bilston and the Three Tuns Shopping Centre on Stafford Road, consolidating the council’s approach to hot food takeaways into one document.
The guidance states that, where centres have 40 units or more, no more than 10% should be hot food takeaways, and that where there are less than 40 units, hot food takeaways must make up no more than 15% of them. Where these limits are reached, new takeaways will not be granted planning permission.
In addition, the guidance will restrict new hot food takeaways from opening within 400m – around a five-minute walk – of secondary schools, with the exception of schools which are close to or within the boundaries of the City centre or district centres.
It will also put an end to the “clustering” of takeaways by ensuring that no more than two takeaways are permitted to open next to each other.
The proposed guidance will only affect new “Class A5” hot food takeaways, such as drive throughs, Chinese and Indian takeaways and pizza, fried chicken, burger and fish and chip shops. It will not affect existing hot food takeaways; nor will it apply to non-Class A5 food and drink retailers such as sandwich shops and bakeries, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and dessert shops.
Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “We recognise that fast food outlets are an important component of the local economy, and where balanced with other types of retail they provide a service to the public, creating jobs and generating rental income.
“However, where they make up a disproportionately high percentage of the retail offer they can have a negative impact by reducing the vitality and viability of shopping centres, discouraging shoppers and future retail opportunities. National guidelines make it clear that retail should be the dominant feature of shopping centres, not fast food outlets, and in many parts of our City that is not the case.
“It’s important to stress that this new planning guidance will not have any impact on existing hot food takeaways, and nor does it limit the type of takeaways in Wolverhampton. This is simply about ensuring that we do not end up with too many takeaways.”
Seven wards in Wolverhampton have a higher proportion of takeaways than the national average with St Peter’s ward, which covers the city centre, unsurprisingly having the most. Wednesfield South ward has 21 takeaways – or 1.84 per 1,000 residents – and Bilston East has the third highest proportion, with 21 takeaways, equivalent to 1.57 per 1,000 people. At the other end of the spectrum, Oxley has just three hot food takeaways, or 0.23 per 1,000 residents.
The rapid expansion of the fast food industry in recent years has had a considerable influence on people’s eating habits and affecting their diet, with more eating highly processed food which is high in saturated fat, sugar, salt and additives. People are also eating larger proportions than ever before and, against a backdrop of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, this is leading to rising levels of obesity and poorer health.
Wolverhampton has some of the highest levels of obesity in the country – around two thirds of adults and nearly half of school children in Year 6 are either overweight or obese, significantly higher than the national average, with obesity costing the NHS up to £8bn per year.
Councillor Paul Sweet, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “For several years, we have worked closely with takeaways to encourage them to offer healthier options to customers, and we’re delighted that around 20 retailers have risen to the challenge and are now giving customers the chance to eat more healthily if they wish.
“However, the sector continues to be dominated by retailers offering food in large portions which is high in fat, sugar and salt.
“Not surprisingly, research shows that increased exposure and opportunity to buy fast food leads to people eating more of it, while the prevalence of takeaways near schools can have a negative impact on children’s eating habits.
“This is not about the council telling people what they can and cannot eat. This is about achieving an economically viable balance between hot food takeaways and other retail across the City, addressing the over concentration of takeaways, protecting vulnerable groups such as secondary school children, and ultimately reducing obesity and poor diet which is affecting the health and wellbeing of so many of our citizens.”
A report due to be presented to members of the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday (18 October) and is available at http://bit.ly/2xxWwOY.
If the draft planning guidance is approved, it will be subject to a six-week period of consultation between 30 October and 12 December, 2017, with businesses, residents and other stakeholders invited to have their say.