Bradford Council recently - along with other councils - introduced some supplementary planning guidance on hot food takeaways. This guidance included a ban of such establishments within 400m of schools, youth clubs, parks and places where there might be 'young people'. This is, we're told, part of the City's 'obesity strategy'.
The Conservative Group opposed the policy (I would add that the Liberal Democrats, not to be outdone by Labour proposed an even more frightening set of controls, licenses and rules governing everything from the calorie content of the food down to the wages of the employees). This opposition was on the grounds that there really isn't any evidence supporting such a ban. The Local Government Association and one or two other bodies cite some research in Cambridge looking at adult commuters as justification - this is for a ban based on reducing obesity in children. To give Bradford's Director of Public Health her due, she agreed with me on the lack of evidence and suggested that perhaps this wasn't the best strategy.
So despite the lack of evidence, the Labour leadership of the Council still introduced the policy - more-or-less on the basis that the lack of evidence didn't matter because it was for the children.
Today I read - via Chris Snowdon - of some research conducted at Leeds Beckett University that comes to the following conclusion:
The research study, led by Leeds Beckett childhood obesity expert Dr Claire Griffiths, measured the exposure of over 13,000 children in Leeds to supermarkets, takeaways and retail outlets in three relevant environments – their home, their school and their commuting route. These environments were then used to estimate the association between the food environment and the child’s weight status.
Results from the study, published today in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, revealed that there was no evidence of an association between the number or type of food outlets and childhood obesity in any of these environments. Additionally, there was no evidence of an association between the proximity to the nearest food outlet from the home or school and childhood obesity.
So we have a planning policy that has no evidence to support it - none at all. Yet is will be used to stop people opening new businesses. Moreover - and importantly - the study wasn't just looking at takeaways but at all food outlets, at the so-called obesogenic environment. And they found no link between any environment and childhood obesity.
Perhaps Bradford needs to rethink its obesity strategy. Perhaps by focusing on the problem - people who are seriously overweight - rather than trying to deny pleasure to people who don't have a problem.