RESIDENTS living along a stretch of road that features 29 fast food outlets are sharply divided over whether a plan to launch another takeaway there should be approved.

Irshad Shafee, who hopes to convert estate agency offices into a takeaway on North Road in Darlington, said his mission was to serve “healthy and unprocessed grilled food”.

The entrepreneur said the venture was founded on the understanding that there are growing issues with obesity due to unhealthy takeaways, but not many solutions to tackle it.

He said: “In order to tackle these issues, we have to provide them with alternative solutions to overcome the obesity. That is where our vision comes in to make it easy for everyone to eat fresh and healthy food.”

The scheme has generated a significant amount of support with numerous residents in the area saying there is a dearth of lower fat takeaways.

Resident Jennifer Carr-McGraw said: “Hopefully changing to a takeaway will provide employment opportunities and fill empty shops, thus rejuvenating the area. A takeaway that promotes healthy eating is always going to be a brilliant idea in my book.”

However, some householders have questioned whether takeaways could change their proposed menus to feature more profitable and less healthy options at any point after being given planning consent. Many residents say the area has become saturated with fast food outlets.

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. Only three local authorities in all of England have more takeaways per head of population than Darlington.

Resident Emma Jones said: “Is Darlington Borough Council trying to win the golden medal with the amount of fast food outlets it is passing?

“Another takeaway will increase the obesity in the area as it’s in close proximity to a primary school so it becomes a convenience to calling in on the way home to collect a takeaway meal.”

The scheme, which is set to be considered by Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee, comes as the authority looks into ways of replicating the methods other councils use to control the number of takeaways in an area.

The Conservative-run council’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott has said the borough’s health and wellbeing board was gathering evidence on the potential impact of takeaways in different areas and looking at best practice by other authorities.

Labour councillor Cyndi Hughes said: “If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that communities with high obesity rates and poor health generally have been hit hardest. It’s no surprise then that residents are taking a stand about the ever increasing number of takeaways opening in Darlington.

“I applaud the fact that council public health officers are at last doing the research necessary to enable action to control the number and location of fast food outlets in areas of already high concentration. Unfortunately, until that work is completed there seems little that can be done to stem the tide of this unhealthy trend.”