Senator calls for ‘no-fry zone’ around schools and playgrounds

Catherine Noone says move would limit access to fast-food and help tackle obesity

A Fine Gael senator wants to limit the access children have to unhealthy food during school hours.

A Fine Gael senator wants to limit the access children have to unhealthy food during school hours.

 

A Fine Gael senator has called on local authorities to introduce “no-fry zones” within 500 metres of schools and playgrounds.

Catherine Noone said the move would limit access to unhealthy food for children by restricting access to take-aways or fast food outlets.

“A quarter of 11-year-olds are now clinically obese. We are facing an obesity time bomb,” Ms Noone said. “A study of Irish childhood obesity recently revealed that children who are obese have an 82 per cent chance of remaining so into adulthood, compared with just 15 per cent of children with a normal weight in childhood. I believe we need to do everything possible to stop that, and this is one such tool we can use”.

She said there was scope to introduce the measure in Dublin City Council’s seven-year development plan, which will guide building activity over between 2016 and 2022. This could also be adopted by other local authorities, she said.

The issue is a source of controversy in Greystones, Co Wicklow, where planning permission has been approved for a McDonalds drive-through opposite three schools.

Initial permission from Wicklow County Council was appealed by the boards of management of Templecarrig Secondary School, Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath and the Greystones Educate Together.

The schools – with a projected roll of 1,800 children – were among a number of parties who opposed the siting of McDonalds at The Blacklion Centre on grounds of potential adverse effects, including obesity.

Wicklow-based Minister of State Simon Harris, one of the original objectors to the scheme, has said the issue of an exclusion zone around schools was being considered.

However, Minister of State with responsibility for planning Paudie Coffey recently told the Dáil that local authorities had the authority to limit the development of takeaways in particular areas.

Under planning legislation, the change of use of any premises to a takeaway or fast food outlet requires planning permission

Mr Coffey said local area plan guidelines for planning authorities published in June 2013 recognise the important role of planning in “promoting and facilitating active and healthy living patterns for local communities”.

For example, they suggest that plans can promote active and healthier lifestyles by careful consideration of the appropriateness or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.