Fast food on the rise in the Borders

Tuesday October 23rd 2018

Fast Food

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Joseph Anderson

The number of takeaways and fast food outlets in the Scottish Borders continues to rise.

New figures, produced by the Local Democracy Reporting Service’s data unit in Birmingham, shows that the number of fast food stores in the Borders has increased by over a third since 2010, up from 40 to 55.

This is broadly in line with the rest of the UK, which has one of the highest proportions of overweight and obese children in the European Union, and which has seen the number of fast food outlets increase by 34%.

As the number of people living in the Borders has remained relatively stable since 2010, this also means that the number of takeaways relative to population size has risen to 48 per 100,000 residents.

However, despite the increase, Scottish Borders Council has actually licensed much fewer takeaways relative to population size than other UK local authorities.

Westminster CIty Council, for example, has 127 takeaways per 100,000 residents, while in Scotland, Glasgow City Council has licensed 565 fast food outlets, or 91 for every 100,000 people.

Commenting on the nationwide increase in fast food outlets and takeaways, Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community and wellbeing board, said: “We urgently need to take action to tackle child obesity and councils are playing their part but need more planning powers to help tackle this epidemic, which has made the UK the most obese nation in western Europe.

“Councils appreciate that a flourishing hospitality sector in our towns and cities is good for local economies and where they have introduced restrictions on takeaways are working with businesses to help create healthier menus for their customers.

“Numerous councils have set curbs on new fast food outlets but current legislation means they lack planning powers to tackle the clustering of existing takeaways already open.

“New legislation is needed to empower councils to help drive forward an effective redesign of damaging food environments to help address health inequalities and tackle the obesity crisis, which requires a joined-up approach.”

Many of the takeaways and fast food outlets in the Scottish Borders are focused on the population centres of Galashiels and Hawick.

In July, councillors voted to relax restrictions on new businesses opening in Hawick and Galashiels town centres in a bid to combat the decline of the region’s high streets.

As part of a one year pilot scheme, there is now no restriction on the type of business which can open in Hawick’s town centre, while in Galashiels the rules on which businesses would be welcomed have been considerably relaxed.

The bonfire of red tape is the result of a study which shown that footfall in Borders town centres has dramatically decreased, leading to an increase in empty shop fronts.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Many councils are challenged with striking the balance between a vibrant high street and a healthy one.

“However, it’s difficult to make healthier choices when our neighbourhoods are saturated with takeaways, restaurants and cafes.

“Everyone has a role in tackling obesity. Councils can help address the growth of fast food outlets and we’re working with the food and drink industry to make everyday products healthier.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said that the local authority does not have a specific planning policy regarding takeaways and fast food, adding: “There is no distinction between them and other restaurants in policy terms and each application is considered on its own merits, taking into account a whole range of factors.”

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