03 February 2015
Minister Fitzgerald “disappointed” at Council approval of fast food outlet
“In January, I submitted an objection to the Council to the proposed opening of a fast food outlet at this location. I have a consistent record of objecting to applications for new takeaways which would negatively affect residential areas or nearby schools.
“I have in recent years opposed previous planning applications for a take-away facility in the Griffeen Centre and Foxborough in Lucan, Co. Dublin on the basis of their proximity to local schools and youth services and worked with residents to oppose this development. I opposed this new development due to the proximity of its location to a number of Lucan schools: St. Thomas NS, Scoil Áine Naofa and Lucan Community College.
“I noted that the planner’s report on the permission granted for the new takeaway states that ‘no details have been submitted regarding the operation of the proposed facility’. In other words, we have no idea what type of food outlet is being proposed.
“For these reasons I intend to lodge an appeal with An Bord Pleanala,” Fitzgerald concluded.
The 2005 Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity (Department of Health) recognises that ‘home and school environments that support healthy food choices for children’ present a probable decreased risk to weight gain and obesity whereas ‘ heavy marketing of energy-dense foods and fast-food’ present a probable high risk. Furthermore in the Taskforce’s report, recommendation no. 7 under ‘Physical Environment’ states:
“Local authorities should ensure that their mission statements, corporate plans and planning policies take account of their impact on healthy living.”
In June 2010, the UK High Court overturned a decision by Tower Hamlets council, in east London to permit a fast food takeaway shop to be set up near a school with a healthy eating policy. In doing so the judge ruled that that the proximity of the proposed fast food outlet to the school could be a "material planning consideration".
I have concerns regarding the growing problem of childhood obesity, evidenced by stark statistics emerging from the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ longitudinal study of children. In my previous role as Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, I wrote to the then Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan TD recommending the introduction of new policies to allow local authorities to restrict the opening of new takeaways in close proximity to schools.
As a result, in June 2013 the Department of Environment, Communities & Local Government published “Local Area Plans Guidelines for Planning Authorities”. These guidelines state that “planning also has an important role to play in promoting and facilitating active and healthy living patterns for local communities” and that planning “can promote active and healthier lifestyles by ensuring that… exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar is reduced such as the careful consideration of the appropriateness and or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.”