With the spread of fast food takeaways in the news today, a Birmingham City Council planning policy is successfully limiting the growth across the city.
In July 2011 a joint member /officer workshop was held exploring the obesogenic environment in Birmingham and how measures could be taken to help reduce obesity levels. One area the workshop looked at was the increasing growth in the number of hot food takeaway shops and what role planning could play in helping to reduce this growth.
In March 2012, following widespread public consultation, Birmingham planners introduced a 10 per cent limit on the number of hot food takeaways in any shopping area or High Street.
At the time of adoption 33 of Birmingham’s 73 local centres already exceeded that figure and the new limit therefore placed an immediate cap on any future growth in those centres.
Of the 42 applications for hot food takeaways since the restrictions came into force, 26 have been refused.
It’s important to note that some areas are yet to reach the 10 per cent threshold and therefore the limit does not yet apply.
Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “We’re determined to use every tactic at our disposal as we tackle Birmingham’s obesity crisis.
“That means a range of initiatives, including promoting healthy eating, getting people to be more physically active and working with planners to limit the number of hot food takeaways across the city.”
So why is this important?
- 1 in 4 of our children are obese by the time they leave primary school.
- The projected financial cost of obesity to our City will amount to £2.6 billion per year by 2050 – that is the equivalent of 13.5 new Libraries of Birmingham.
There is no simple, single solution; the achievement of tackling obesity in Birmingham will require considerable leadership and effort as well as the appropriate use of resources.
A coordinated effort to impact on childhood obesity at all levels is crucial, this includes policy change, partnerships, communications as well as specific interventions. The three factors driving our obesity epidemic can be summarised as:
- Environment – we have an environment that encourages low physical effort, with more car journeys at the expense of walking etc. We have allowed unhealthy food options to proliferate in our society, often at the expense of healthy options, especially close to schools.
- Behaviour – we have adopted behaviour that complements our environment, especially concerning eating high-calorific foods. This is often driven by evidence-based marketing.
- Opportunity – we have developed few opportunities for children to undertake appealing physical exertion or enjoy healthy food options, especially early in life.
Last year, the City Council approved a wide-ranging Childhood Obesity Strategy and the success of that strategy will depend of a range of measures – some big, some small.
Initiatives like the Startwell programme are starting to have an impact by encouraging parents and their children to develop good habits from early life.