A special “tax” on fast food takeaways to help fund obesity programmes and deal with litter left by customers has been called for in Newcastle.
The suggestion follows the city being the first in the country to introduce a late night levy on bars and clubs to help police deal with drink-fulled crime and disorder.
It was proposed by Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone and follows a recent controversial planning application by McDonald’s for a site near Kenton School, the city’s largest secondary school with around 2,000 pupils.
The application is to go before the council’s planning committee later this month and has provoked a storm of protest from residents, local councillors and the head of Kenton School, David Pearmain.
In a motion put to a full Newcastle City Council meeting, Coun Stone asked for it to investigate the feasibility of asking businesses with negative socio-economic effects to help offset these by paying an annual “sustainable retail levy” to support initiatives such as local high street improvements, anti obesity schemes or financial inclusion projects.
It also asked for the council to consider greater controls on changes of use to things like hot food takeaways in identified local retail centres and streets.
The Lib Dem Opposition group’s motion highlights the findings of the council’s own Retail Health Check Analysis, which was instigated by the Lib Dem administration in 2010.
He asked for a report to be carried out to assess how the council is progressing with implementing its recommendations.
Coun Stone said the issue of local retail vitality and the “healthiness” of high streets is a concern, and the number of takeaways in the city is continuing to proliferate.
He said: “Local communities should have more say. I don’t want to ban takeaways but they do affect the local way of life and can lead to later problems.”
He said takeaways contributed to “toxic High Streets”, which also included the effect on them of pawn shops, money lenders and bookmakers.
Labour Coun Joyce McCarty rejected the levy idea, saying: “We don’t want to see another tax on small businesses. If we’re going to try and work with the businesses we need to look at issues case by case and deal with it as the need arises.”
There were also criticisms of the easing of planning laws by the Coalition Government which makes it easier for retail outlets to change to fast food takeaways.
In the amendment to the Lib Dem motion, which was accepted, the council agreed to continue to support local retail diversity and vitality as well as the introduction of “localist” retail planning policies to improve the health and vitality of local retail centres.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 July 2014
Plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school have provoked a storm of protest.
Feelings are so high it has caused a city councillor to stand down from the planning committee which will decide whether to give it the go ahead – to help organise protests against it.
David Pearmain, head teacher of Kenton School, where around 2,000 pupils study, has submitted a lengthy objection to the city council in which he concluded: “For the sake of our children’s health and safety, please do not approve this application.”
Coun David Stockdale, who represents the neighbouring Blakelaw ward, has taken the rare step of “recluse” – voluntary exclusion – because he felt so strongly against the application.
It is for a two-storey drive-through outlet on the old Crofters Lodge pub site at the junction of Kenton Lane and Ponteland Road.
“On the committee you have to be open minded about applications you consider,” he explained. “I’ve already got a pre-determined attitude towards this and it is against it.
“Newcastle has some of the highest incidents of childhood obesity in the country. It’s an epidemic and this would site a McDonald’s on a road leading to the biggest secondary school in the city.”
He added: “Until recently I had public health responsibility on the council. One of the things we did a lot of work on was the provision that we had more power to control unhealthy eating outlets.”
Coun Stockdale said feelings were running high in the area as he leafleted houses located near the proposed site.
Coun Stephen Lambert, who represents the Kenton ward, said: “I’ve had over 58 objections from the Kenton area to this proposal. We feel it’s inappropriate. It is on an extremely busy junction, so there are issues of highway safety.
“All three Kenton councillors are supporting the residents who object to this planning application.”
A local resident who didn’t want to be named, said: “There’s are already two McDonald’s in the area, including one at Kingston Park.
“Obviously it will be a temptation to kids at lunchtime and we worry about it attracting anti-social behaviour. Petitions are being gathered and a lot of people have objected on Newcastle City Council’s website.”
One person who has is Mr Pearmain. He wrote: “Kenton School enjoys the Healthy Schools Award status, but Kenton students will be far more tempted than ever before to buy fast food snacks because of the proximity to the school.
“We know that unhealthy eating and its associated conditions are very high in the relatively deprived districts which are close to the site and which the school serves.
“Although McDonald’s also serves healthy food for those who choose it, as a commercial organisation they allow their paying customers free choice across their products and many young people will choose unhealthy options without the guidance they would receive in school. This will tend strongly to undermine the City Council’s own health policies.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson: “At McDonald’s, we serve good food made from quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. We offer a broad choice and we provide clear nutrition information on our menu boards so our customers can make informed choices that are right for them.
“We would like to reassure local residents that our main priority is to be a good neighbour and we are happy to work with any member of the local community who has concerns about the impact of our business.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 June 2014