Ban fast food shops within five-minute walk of schools, report says

Junk food outlets should be banned from routes children take between home and school to help tackle childhood obesity, according to a new report.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said outlets viewed as selling unhealthy food should be banned within a five-minute walk of the school gates.

It also wants billboard adverts for junk food outlawed in the same areas, as well as removed from all council-owned advertising sites.

A third suggestion is the banning of app-based delivery services from taking food to schools.

RSPH also wants to see walking and cycling routes upgraded, including simplifying regulations to allow for more pedestrian crossings, and better signage for parks.

The report, called Routing Out Childhood Obesity, found 80% of the public would like an end to discounts offered to pupils by unhealthy fast food outlets near schools, while 65% back a ban on new unhealthy fast food outlets within a five-minute walk of the gates, and 68% agree that junk food campaigns across council-owned advertising boards should be banned.

As part of the study, the RSPH worked with urban health foundation Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, mapping the street environments of London boroughs Lambeth and Southwark to gauge their impact on childhood obesity.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: "When the bells ring at the end of the day, a typical school child finds themselves in a situation they would otherwise rarely experience: With time to spare, friends to follow, change in their pocket, no adult direction, and a junk food offer within minutes on foot.

"It's small wonder that, in this environment, junk food outlets have become one of the most popular after-school destinations.

"Our work with Guy's and St Thomas' Charity has shown that if we are to give young people in the UK the options they deserve, and not settle for the cheap and unhealthy offer they are currently restricted to, we need a radical revamp of the street environment surrounding our schools."

Responding to the report, Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said: "We urgently need to take action to tackle childhood obesity and councils are playing their part, but need stronger planning powers to help deal with this epidemic.

"The majority of councils have adopted policies designed to set curbs on fast food outlets, but current legislation means they lack planning powers to tackle the clustering of existing takeaways already open.

"Extra powers would also help them to control junk food advertising near schools, nurseries and children's centres to beat the child obesity crisis, across all billboards, along with a strengthening of advertising standards."