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‘No-fry zone’ amendment backed by IHF/RCPI

22 Sep 2016

The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has strongly backed the amended objective RT17 in Wicklow County Council’s County Development Plan on implementing a ‘no-fry zone’ near schools.

In a submission to the Council last month, the IHF said it believed it was “inappropriate to continue to address the issue of new fast food outlets beside schools on a case by case basis at local level”, as this required parents and schools to organise to appeal planning applications.

A co-ordinated, national approach to protect the health of children and young people across the country was required, stressed the Foundation, which wants national level guidance for all local authorities on the introduction of no-fry zones adjacent to schools. Such guidance could be provided through a specific Department of Environment guideline addressing fast food outlets, such as a ‘Guideline for Planning Authorities – Fast Food outlets’.

This was the means which has guided other planning issues of national importance, such as the provision of childcare facilities in new developments, the IHF said.

Backing was given to the Wicklow County Council plan amendment “particularly as it more closely defines fast food outlets/ takeaways and as it specifies the exact size of the exclusion zone”. The IHF commended this effort by Wicklow County Council to use its authority for land zoning and land use, to limit access to fast food and the promotion of unhealthy foods in the vicinity of schools.

While the IHF had advocated for a 1km (approximately 10-minute walk) no-fry zone, the IHF said it believed that a 400m zone was “the minimum size which could be effective”. As such, the Foundation said it strongly supported the inclusion of no-fry zones in the Wicklow Development Plan and sincerely hoped the Council would include the amended objective in the final Development Plan.

The IHF said it was aware that taking action on fast food outlets was only part of the solution and that there was a need to address the food available to students in schools. This autumn the IHF will launch the Happy Heart @ School Catering Award programme, which will aim to ensure that heart-healthy options are provided and promoted to students, staff and visitors in post-primary schools.

The RCPI Policy Group on Obesity, in a submission it made during the recent public consultation, also reiterated its strong support for the amendment, stating that the changes proposed to the wording brought “extra clarity” to the objective, thereby making it more robust.

“Adopting the amended Objective RT17 into the County Development Plan presents an opportunity for Wicklow County Council to reiterate its commitment to safeguarding the health of the children and young people in Wicklow, and to the long-term health and wellbeing of the communities in the Wicklow area,” stated Prof Catherine Hayes and Prof Donal O’Shea on behalf of the group.

“This action can also offer leadership to planning authorities across the country,” they added.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times