Fast food ban could 'kill high streets like Chipping Sodbury'

July 28 2020
Fast food ban could 'kill high streets like Chipping Sodbury'

A BAN on new fast food outlets near schools will “kill” high streets, according to concerned councillors.

South Gloucestershire Council is fast-tracking the introduction of the new policy, which will prohibit new fast food outlets, such as takeaways and burger bars and snack vans, from opening within 400 metres of any primary or secondary school.

Conservative councillors proposed the new measure in a bid to fight childhood obesity after a planning inspector allowed two new 24h drive-thrus to go ahead near three schools in Bradley Stoke.

But a formal debate on the policy had to be delayed after councillors ran out of time at the last full council meeting on July 15.

Rather than wait until council meets again in October, however, the ruling Tory administration has announced it is taking the Fast Food Exclusion Zone policy forward as it needs to get on with preparing its new district local plan while it consults on the new council plan.

Council leader Toby Savage said: “By introducing these restrictions, we can help schools, parents and carers to ensure young people are more likely to benefit from a balanced diet.”

But opposition councillors have raised concerns the new policy will affect a lot of South Gloucestershire’s towns and villages, where the high streets sit very close to schools.

Members of the council’s scrutiny commission heard a 400 metre exclusion zone around St John’s Mead primary school in Chipping Sodbury “pretty much covers all of the shopping district”, where there are currently about 12 fast food outlets.

Liberal Democrat councillor Adrian Rush, who represents Chipping Sodbury, said he feared the new policy would create empty high streets as existing takeaway outlets closed and new ones were not allowed to take their place.

If this comes in, gradually over the years it’s going to kill high streets like Chipping Sodbury,” Cllr Rush said.

If you get takeaway companies coming in, then they fill shops, whereas if you ain’t going to get them in, they ain’t going to fill the shops. 

There’s normal churn, which you’re not going to allow to take place.”

But Labour group deputy leader Ian Boulton, who spearheaded a campaign opposing the conversion of a former charity shop in Staple Hill into yet another fast food outlet, said the new policy would encourage “diversity” in the type of shops in South Gloucestershire’s high streets.

Cabinet member for planning Steve Reade said the administration was “very conscious” of the potential effects of the takeaway exclusion zone and he was “very keen that high streets survive and thrive”.

He said he expected there would be “some form of consultation” on the new policy but he did not know when it would take place.

Bradley Stoke South representative Roger Avenin, who proposed the new policy, said he would have preferred the opportunity to get cross-party support for it but understood the need to “press on” and was “delighted” cabinet had decided to take the exclusion zone forward.

Cllr Avenin put forward his proposal after the council was powerless to stop McDonald’s and Starbucks 24h drive-thrus being built in Bradley Stoke.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I have had concerns about the growing problem of childhood obesity for some time, and this recently manifested locally with the disappointing decision by the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the rejection by the council’s planning committees of a fast food drive-thru to be built in Bradley Stoke, right in the middle of three local schools. 

It was this that prompted me to do some research to see what powers were available to local authorities to counter this.

With so many leading national public health bodies pointing to a causal link between the growth of fast food outlets and childhood obesity, there is a clear need to act.”

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service