A LOCAL authority which announced it would tackle high levels of childhood obesity by reducing access to takeaways in areas with high volumes of fast food outlets has rejected a proposal for a pizza shop.

While Darlington Borough Council officers said plans to transform Cafe 204 on North Road into a takeaway had been refused due to concerns over the impact it would have on residents, they made no mention of ambitions launched in the Darlington Childhood Healthy Weight Plan 2019-2024.

The rate of childhood obesity in the borough sits above the national average at both reception and year 6, but the authority found unhealthy weights were concentrated in areas such as North Road, where access to energy-dense food was higher.

In 2018, the council approved the plans’ recommendation to reduce the proximity of fast food outlets to schools and other places where children gather and “ transform the environment so that it supports healthy lifestyles and make healthier choices easier”.

While there are 86 fast food outlets in the Park East, Northgate, Pierremont and Bank Top wards, there are six such takeaways in North Road.

After the proposal was lodged with the authority in June, numerous residents voiced views on social media that there was an excess of takeaways nearby and raised objections on health grounds over the scheme.

Planning experts say health considerations are capable of being reasons to approve or reject proposals as the National Planning Policy Framework states: “The planning system can play an important role in facilitating social interaction and creating healthy, inclusive communities.”

In addition, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 imposes a duty on local authorities to take appropriate steps to improve the health of the people who live in their areas, reinforcing the need to consider whether there are health implications associated with planning decisions.

Despite this, planning officers said the proposed pizza outlet, which would have been the third such takeaway within a short distance, said it was being refused due to its impact on neighbours.

They said it would attract customers at times when residents could expect it to be quiet and issues such as smells and noise could not be completely overcome.

The officers stated: “Whilst the proposal does not intend facilities for the consumption of food on the premises, some customers may congregate outside of the shop which could also cause annoyance and disturbance to residents.”

Councillor Cyndi Hughes, the authority’s former children and young people’s portfolio holder, said concentrations of fast food outlets in areas with higher deprivation was a significant issue in Darlington.

She said: “We need to look at the cumulative impact of planning permissions. There is a saturation of takeaways along streets such as North Road and Victoria Road.”