Irish Heart Foundation appeal against fast food restaurant near school rejected
Group calls decision to grant permission for project a setback in fight against childhood obesity
The decision letter from An Bord Pleanála upholding the permission said ‘careful consideration was given to the appropriateness and location’ of the fast food outlet to local schools. Photograph: Google Street View
An appeal by the Irish Heart Foundation against planning permission granted for a fast food restaurant located just 300 metres from a primary school was rejected this week.
A number of local residents and politicians objected alongside the Foundation to the development of a two-storey restaurant with a drive-through in Skerries, County Dublin, which would be open from 6.30am to 11.30pm daily.
The group has called the decision to grant permission a setback in the fight against childhood obesity, citing state-funded research that estimates 85,000 children will die prematurely as a result of Ireland’s child obesity crisis.
“Seventy five per cent of Irish schools have at least one and 30% have at least five fast food outlets within a kilometre of their gates. It’s clear that many junk food restaurant chains deliberately cluster around schools to boost business,” said Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation.
The development was first granted planning permission on March 6th of this year by Fingal County Council.
‘Very serious step’
The decision letter from An Bord Pleanála upholding the permission said “careful consideration was given to the appropriateness and location” of the fast food outlet to local schools.
It stated that the Board had decided “not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to refuse permission.”
It said the planning authority considered “the nature of the closest school (a primary school), where the pupils are typically not permitted to leave during lunch break.”
“We don’t accept that the proliferation of these restaurants close to locations where children live, learn and play is helping to drive our child obesity crisis and has to be urgently stopped,” said Mr Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation.
Action open to those wishing to further challenge the decision will involve taking a judicial review, which he described as a “very serious step.”
“We’ll certainly be talking to local residents groups to decide jointly what our response will be,” he said. “This is both a local and national issue. We want to protect children living in Skerries. But we also want legislation at national level.”
The Irish Heart Foundation is calling on the government to introduce no fry zone legislation that will blanket-ban planning permission for all new hot food takeaways within one kilometre of both primary and secondary schools.
Mr Macey said the legislation is “a measure that is evidence-based, supported by the public, cost free and, in association with other important measures, will help reduce overweight and obesity among our children.”
“So if policymakers won’t even do this, you’d have to ask what do they have the stomach for in protecting children’s health in the midst of Ireland’s obesity crisis.”
Planning consultancy Corr and Associates were responsible for the planning application on behalf of Marbleside Limited and preferred not to comment until the potential of a judicial review has passed.