Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Ban on takeaways 'backed by 93%'

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Council has its fill of fast food

Fast-food outlets should be banned from opening near schools and youth centres, according to 93% of respondents to a public consultation in east London.

Waltham Forest Council asked whether planning regulations should change so new takeaways must be at least 400m from areas often used by children.

Such shops were "a distraction from healthy school meals", council leader Clyde Loakes told BBC London 94.9.

But the Federation of Small Businesses said they were part of community life.

The seven-week consultation, which ends on Monday, covers a borough with one of the highest levels of child obesity in the UK.

The amount of litter created by our current fast food outlets is very, very high, and we want our town centres to look nice and pleasant
Clyde Loakes
Leader, Waltham Forest Council

About one youngster in six is obese in Waltham Forest, government figures show. This is twice the national average.

An earlier council survey also suggested residents were unhappy with the noise, litter, parking issues and anti-social behaviour linked to fast-food premises.

"Primarily it's about the health of our young people," Mr Loakes added. "Our young people are eating fast-food on the way home from school, not just at lunchtimes, and that's a problem.

"The amount of litter created by our current fast food outlets is very, very high, and we want our town centres to look nice and pleasant."

'Healthy alternative'

Lynette Parvez, the head teacher at Kelmscott School in Walthamstow, said she was "pleased" about the outcome, which concerned new businesses and would not affect existing retailers.

"I actually looked closely at my children when they left the school building after [classes], and I was amazed how many went to see the local chicken shop or whatever.

"I can't control them after three o'clock. I can control them at lunchtime; I can offer them a healthy alternative."

One takeaway a month shouldn't hurt anyone
Stephen Alambritis
Federation of Small Businesses

She suggested the council should go further by forcing takeaways to close in the afternoon, when children came out of school.

Mr Loakes said this was one option which might be considered by the council next year, along with forcing businesses to "brand" takeaway boxes to assess exactly where litter was coming from.

But Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, was unhappy about the outcome of the consultation - to which about 100 people responded - and defended fast-food outlets.

"They serve the community. They serve that important night-time economy, which is [worth] over 15-20bn to the High Street.

"It should be all about competition and about the consumer deciding where to go and not councils deciding for them where a fish and chip shop or a Chinese takeaway should be established."

"One takeaway a month shouldn't hurt anyone", he added, for what were "very popular meals".

Waltham Forest's councillors will need to vote for a change in the planning rules before any action can be taken. They are expected to debate the matter early next year.

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