DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL: Takeaways ‘endanger £25m heritage quarter plan’
A LOCAL authority pouring £25m of public money into creating a railway heritage quarter has been urged to push forward with actions to enable it to limit the rising number of takeaways in the area.
The calls to Darlington Borough Council come just days after the fifth planning application in a year to create fast food outlets in the Northgate and North Road area was lodged and just weeks after the authority announced it was buying a historic property there and removing the eyesore takeaway on the ground floor.
However, opposition councillors have questioned the rationale behind buying premises such as railway entrepreneur Edward Pease’s home in Northgate to improve the look of the area when the rising number of takeaways detracts from the environment.
They have also claimed concentrated numbers of takeaways blight the lives of residents with litter and mess. With about three dozen fast food outlets in and around the planned heritage quarter, North Road Liberal Democrat councillor Hilary Allen said the profusion of takeaways would be off-putting for the target 200,000 visitors the council hopes will visit the area.
She said: “With takeaways it’s the way they look and the impression they give. They don’t look salubrious do they? The only areas of Darlington that you will not find takeaways is the rich areas and that’s because there’s not a demand for them.”
Labour councillor Cyndi Hughes said while the council did not have a Local Plan in place or other planning policies which could limit the number of takeaways, it was “at the mercy of anybody who wants to open up any kind of takeaway”, regardless of how damaging it might be on grounds such as health or the heritage quarter.
Amid concerns over tackling obesity in parts of the borough, the council’s cabinet last week approved a review of the available planning powers that could be used to support its objectives of achieving the targets set in the Childhood Healthy Weight Plan for Darlington.
The meeting heard Public Health England’s latest annual report highlighted how the number of fast food outlets in Darlington per resident stood at 148.6 per 100,000.
Cllr Hughes said only three local authorities in all of England had more takeaways per head of population than Darlington.
The authority’s health and housing portfolio holder Councillor Kevin Nicholson told the meeting: “The location of takeaways in my view is more a measure of deprivation than it is about obesity.” He said while the Park East area had some 40 fast food outlets, Eastbourne ward had only two, and the areas had similar obesity rates. Cllr Nicholson said tackling obesity would need a much broader approach than just limiting the number of takeaways in an area.
The Conservative-run council’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott said the borough’s health and wellbeing board was set to gather evidence on the potential impact of takeaways in different areas and look at best practice.
When asked if she was concerned about the volume of takeaways in the planned heritage quarter area, she said: “Yes, but that was done under the previous Labour administration. We are looking at it to see what we can do. It’s a balance between supporting businesses and weighing up the health issue and the work we are trying to do in Northgate. Until we get the evidence we can’t do anything about changing the planning rules.”
Words: Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter
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