THE North-East borough with the highest number of takeaways per head of population will review using planning powers to support its move to improve youngsters’ health.

Several years after the location of takeaways was raised as an issue in Darlington Borough Council’s Childhood Healthy Weight Plan, the authority’s cabinet has agreed to examine how planning could influence the built environment to reduce obesity.

A cabinet meeting was told local planning authorities could have a role in enabling a healthier environment by supporting opportunities for communities to access a wide range of healthier food production and consumption choices.

Councillors were told local planning authorities could consider bringing forward, where supported by evidence, local planning policies and supplementary planning documents, which limit the proliferation of types of businesses, such as fast food outlets, in identified areas.

The move follows members of the planning committee being told nearby councils already had powers to limit takeaway numbers, but no such policy had ever been developed in Darlington.

Green Party leader Councillor Matthew Snedker said adding the planning powers would not see the council shutting down fast food outlets, but be given the opportunity to intervene where communities were overwhelmed with takeaways.

Councillor Cyndi Hughes said Public Health England’s latest annual report highlighted how the number of fast food outlets in Darlington per resident stood at 148.6 per 100,000.

She said only three local authorities in all of England had more takeaways per head of population than Darlington - Blackpool, Scarborough and Kingston upon Hull.

The authority’s health and housing cabinet member Councillor Kevin Nicholson said addressing childhood weight issues would be far more complicated than limiting local access to fast food.

He said: “A big evolution in the takeaway is the online platform. I don’t generally order takeaways from anywhere in my local area. They come from the other end of town via an app.”