Midlothian school takeaway ban eased

Wednesday January 13th 2021


the Hunterfield Tavern, Gorebridge, where a takeway was given permission last year.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A ban on hot food takeaways being allowed to open within 400 metres of schools has been lifted by Midlothian Council.

The policy ban, which was introduced in November 2018, saw planning officers rejecting bids to open takeaways within walking distance of schools in an effort to promote healthier living.

However, a meeting of Midlothian Council’s planning committee this week was told that the ban had been reviewed after two applications for premises had seen elected members take an “alternative approach” and grant approval.

In both cases, members opted to introduce reduced opening hours to ensure the takeaways could not serve the school lunchtime trade rather than following the ban policy.

Peter Arsndorf, the council’s planning chief, told the virtual meeting that sometimes it was only when a policy was in place that it could be tested.

He said: “It is often the case that it is not until you get cases in the system and test it that you find the nuances of it.”

In 2019, Scotmid was refused permission to turn a shop it owned into a hot food takeaway because it was 235 metres from Lasswade Primary School, after the ban was introduced.

The shop chain appealed to the council’s Local Review Body to overturn the decision, pointing out that primary school pupils were not out of school at lunchtime.

However, it failed to sway councillors.

Last year, however, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, councillors were persuaded to allow two hot food takeaways – one at the Hunterfield Tavern, Gorebridge, another at a former bookies on John Street, Penicuik – to open by introducing restrictive hours.

Approving the Hunterfield Tavern application in September last year, Councillor Derek Milligan, council leader, argued for a change of heart in the wake of the Covid impact.

At this week’s meeting, the committee agreed to revise its food and drink supplementary guidance for town centres on hot food takeaways near schools to allow them to open under restrictive hours.

They agreed the recommendation to: “Instruct officers to take an alternative approach to the ‘within 400 metres of a school restriction’ set out in the guidance and instead impose a condition which limits hot food takeaway to 16.00 – 23.00 Monday to Friday when considering an application for a hot food takeaway, or an application with a hot food takeaway component.”

The decision does not alter other conditions required under the food and drink guidance for hot food takeaways in the council area.

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