Local authority accused of flouting ‘no-fry zone’ policy on fast food outlets

Planning permission granted for drive through restaurant 300 metres from school

The county council banned fast food outlets within 400 metres of schools but granted planning permission for a Chinese takeaway within the exclusion zone because the takeaway opened at 5pm. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The county council banned fast food outlets within 400 metres of schools but granted planning permission for a Chinese takeaway within the exclusion zone because the takeaway opened at 5pm. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Fingal County Council has been accused of breaching the Government’s “no-fry zone” health policy by granting planning permission for a fast food outlet near a primary school in North Dublin.

Fine Gael Senator James Reilly has called on the Ministers for Health and Housing to jointly issue an edict to all local authorities “with proper guidelines advising them of Government policy and that these type of developments are not appropriate”.

Dr Reilly, a former minister for health who launched the Government’s Healthy Ireland policy said “myriad Government documents underpin policy related to fighting obesity”, which he described as an epidemic, with two out of every five children either obese or overweight.

He condemned the granting of planning permission for a two-storey drive through fast-food restaurant at Skerries Point shopping centre, at Barnageeragh Cove, 50 metres from a Montessori school, with 100 children and 300 metres from an Educate Together primary school with 400 children.

Dr Reilly has raised the issue in the Seanad and said that having a fast food restaurant near schools “smacks of the tactics of the tobacco industry in the way the fast-food industry is trying to ‘get them young and keep them for life’.

“It is a cradle-to-grave approach and we all know how hard it is to break a habit learned as a child.”

He said on Friday the council had ignored over 100 submissions opposing the planning permission and “a 6,000 square feet drive through is utterly disproportionate and unsuitable for this area”, a “small neighbourhood shopping centre”.

Fingal County Council said it granted the planning permission on March 6th in accordance with planning and development laws.

The local authority is “restricted to considering all planning applications on the basis of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”, a spokesman said.

Appeal

He added that “an appeal may be made to An Bord Pleanála in relation to this decision by the 2nd April 2019 and therefore any further comment by Fingal County Council on this application would be inappropriate at this time”.

A spokesman for Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the department published statutory guidelines for planning authorities which set out policies to promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns for local communities.

These included “careful consideration of the appropriateness of the location of fast-food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks”.

Restrictions on fast-food outlets near schools need to be “carefully considered on a case by case basis, in view of the mix of existing uses typically found in such central urban areas”.

Planning policy on the location of fast-food outlets “needs to be considered also within the wider policy context of practical steps that can be taken to more widely promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns”.

Dr Reilly said that in Minister for Health Simon Harris’s constituency campaigners successfully thwarted a planning application for a McDonald’s fast food outlet near three schools in Greystones.

The county council banned fast food outlets within 400 metres of schools but then breached its own rules by granting planning permission for a Chinese takeaway within the exclusion zone. It said it did this because the takeaway opened at 5pm.

A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said: “These are matters for individual local authorities. The policy direction has been laid out in the National Plan for Obesity.

The Minister believes the built environment has an important role to play in creating healthy communities and tackling obesity. He is considering policy options in this area.”

The spokeswoman added that “from his own perspective, Minister Harris has seen the positive effect it can have when local communities advocate for No Fry Zones and adopt such measures in their county development plans.”