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Birmingham takeaway ban 'begins to pay off'

Latest figures show 64 per cent of people in the city are overweight, obese or morbidly obese, above the national average

The obesity problem

Health bosses desperate to drive down soaring obesity levels have barred almost half of all new takeaways from opening in Birmingham.

Latest figures show 64 per cent of people in the city are overweight, obese or morbidly obese, above the national average.

But the council is now clamping down on fast food outlets and the Post can reveal that since the introduction of the policy in March 2012, 15 takeaways have been refused planning permission.

Officials said they were concerned that three quarters of schools in the city have a fast food shop within 400 metres, and some have as many as 19 within that distance.

Obesity amongst the young is soaring across Birmingham – one 10-year-old schoolgirl was measured at 22 stone 11lbs.

The statistics, compiled by the Health and Social Care information centre, and released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that almost 50 youngsters in the city were reported to have topped 16 stone by the age of 11.

Medics now warn that almost a quarter of Year 6 children are officially obese, while one in ten reception pupils are already classed as obese when they first start school.

A study published in the British Medical Journal this month established a link between the availability of fast food and problems with weight.

The region has one of the highest levels of junk food takeaways – Sandwell has one for every 858 people. It also has one of the highest rates of obesity, with 66.3 per cent of people overweight or worse. In Birmingham there is one takeaway for every 1,097 people.

Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Coun Steve Bedser, said: “This isn’t just a Birmingham issue, it’s a national crisis and failing to tackle the obesity time bomb is simply not an option. So we have to look at every single tactic at our disposal – including planning powers. The fast-food issue was highlighted two years ago when we mapped the large number of takeaways near schools across the city. We found that nearly three quarters of all schools in the city have a hot food takeaway within 400 metres. Some have as many as 19 within this distance.

“To combat this, the planning department adopted a policy to limit the number of new fast food outlets across the city and since then almost half of all applications for new takeaways have been refused.”

Since the policy came in, the planning department has had 36 applications for hot food takeaways, 21 of which were approved while 15 were refused.

Of those turned down, six subsequently appealed but lost, which the council said proves the policy is robust and has the support of the Planning Inspectorate.

In Birmingham, no more than 10 per cent of units in any shopping area can be takeaways and the council revealed that two parts of the city – Rookery Road in Sutton Coldfield and Stirchley – have recently reached that threshold. There are now a total of 35 out of 73 shopping are across the city in which no further hot food takeaways are likely to be approved.

The Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board also has a strategy aimed at tackling a rise in obesity in the young.

This includes increasing by a fifth the number of children walking to school from 2012/13 levels, double fruit and vegetable consumption by pupils within three years, and reducing unhealthy snacks eaten in schools by 40 per cent.

Coun Bedser said: “Birmingham is leading the way here but we have to remember that limiting the number of fast-food outlets across the city is just one of the steps we must take to tackle obesity.

“Much of our work will focus on preventative measures and we’ve worked with partners in the Health and Wellbeing Board, to draw up a wide-ranging childhood obesity strategy for the city.

“We’re focusing on everything from fast-food outlets to opportunities for physical activity, better facilities for cycling and increased consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

It is estimated that the financial cost of obesity to Birmingham amounts to £2.6 billion per year including costs to the NHS, social care and the wider economy.

More than 85 per cent of obese children become obese adults and the condition is likely to reduce their life expectancy by nine years.

 
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