DARLINGTON is no different from many towns in having a shockingly large disparity in life expectancy between its richer and poorer areas, but this disparity is being highlighted by a debate over whether another takeaway should be allowed in a poorer area.

The pandemic has highlighted another reason why this is important: the poorer areas are hit harder by the virus, meaning the whole community takes longer to shake it off and move out of lockdown.

The richest areas tend to be the healthiest and so in 2018, a man in Hurworth could expect to live 11.6 years longer than a man who lived in the poorer areas near Bank Top station; a woman in a richer area could expect to live 10 years longer.

Even more shocking, when it came to living without a serious health condition, a man in the richer areas of town could expect 15 more years than a man in a poorer area, and a woman could expect 13 more years.

A lot of this is down to personal responsibility about exercising, diet and smoking. A lot of factors, including education, opportunities and role models, influence those personal decisions.

One of those factors has to be the number of takeaways in an area. If there are takeaways on every street corner, then there is temptation everywhere, and people are encouraged to make an unhealthy decision.

Surely planning policy should be encouraging them to take healthy decisions. Therefore, Darlington council should devise a policy that says when the number of takeaways per head of population reaches a certain level, wards have become saturated by them and no more are allowed.

It is hard to see how allowing another takeaway in Bank Top, which is already well served by such outlets, will help the shocking statistic that 40 per cent of the ward’s children are obese – and all council policy should be aimed at reducing that.