Obesity and the origins of planning

Retrospective permission for a pizza and kebab takeaway in Gateshead was rejected, an inspector supporting the council’s endeavours to address obesity in its area (DCS Number 400-011-493).

The inspector noted that paragraph 7 of the NPPF explains the need for the planning system to support strong, vibrant and healthy communities by creating a high quality built environment that reflects the community’s needs and supports its health, social and cultural wellbeing. Paragraph 69 reiterates that the planning system can play an important role in creating healthy, inclusive communities. In line with this objective, a core strategy policy stated that the wellbeing and health of communities would be maintained and improved by controlling the location of, and access to, unhealthy eating outlets.

In a footnote the inspector acknowledged that the appellant was critical of this policy, arguing that it was outside the ambit of valid planning considerations. He pointed out, however, that  an important precursor to the first town planning Act in this country (the Housing, Town Planning, etc. Act 1909) was the Public Health Act of 1875. So, the planning and environment legislation that exists today has its origins in 19th century concerns about the health and wellbeing of the people.

A survey undertaken in 2012 found that 61 per cent of people in Gateshead were either overweight or obese, the inspector noted, and, according to the National Child Measurement Programme the prevalence of childhood obesity for 10 and 11 year olds in Gateshead was above the national average.

Recognising that the council was seeking to improve the wellbeing and health of residents by ensuring that new sources of unhealthy eating were carefully controlled, the establishment of the takeaway would run counter to those aims and the specific provisions of an adopted local policy, the inspector concluded.

This case reminds us of the political nature of planning and as always there is a difference of opinion. On the one hand there are those who object to government interference and on the other there are those who consider that the regulation of threats to our wellbeing is one of the functions of government. The inspector’s placing of this appeal case in an historical context provides a very useful perspective. He’s right, of course.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 16.2321

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