South Tyneside cafe's bid to expand takeaway service denied due to childhood obesity concerns

Tino's Cafe, Jarrow
-Credit: (Image: Google)

A South Tyneside cafe's proposal to extend its hot food takeaway service has been turned down by councillors due to concerns about childhood obesity. The Planning Committee of South Tyneside Council, at a meeting on May 20, voted against a planning application for Tino's Cafe off Calf Close Lane in the Fellgate and Hedworth ward.

The proposal included a request to change the site's use from a 'lawful cafe/restaurant with ancillary takeaway use' to a 'mixed use of restaurant/cafe with hot food takeaway'. At a council meeting this week, it was clarified by council planners that restaurant/cafes (under a 'Class E' planning use) can offer an element of takeaway as long as food and drink is consumed "mostly on the premises".

According to a report prepared by council planning officers, Tino's Cafe submitted the planning application because it wanted to "allow a more even split of approximately 50/50 between eat-in and takeaway sales or a higher level of takeaway sales above 50 per cent of the total turnover". During a council consultation exercise on the plans, there were 16 letters of objection and 34 representations in support.

Councillors heard concerns including impacts on residential amenity, increased odour and litter, as well as the impact of deliveries and concerns about health impacts and childhood obesity. The plans also saw an objection from South Tyneside Council's public health team due to concerns about childhood obesity figures in the Fellgate and Hedworth ward.

This included the level of obesity among year six children rising to 24.7 per cent for the period 2022/23.

South Tyneside Council's planning department advised against the planning application due to the year six obesity figures "significantly exceeded the 10 per cent threshold" outlined in a council policy targeting "hot food takeaways and health".

Council planners argued that the "proposed mixed use, by virtue of allowing for a greater level of hot food takeaway sales from the premises over and above what would be permitted under the current lawful use Class E use, would be harmful to health and well-being, and related strategies to tackle unhealthy lifestyles and obesity".

Arguments for and against the planning application were put forward at the Planning Committee meeting at South Shields Town Hall on Monday, May 20. Councillor Geraldine Kilgour, who spoke against the plans as a ward councillor and did not take part in the vote, said the objection was "not in any way about the quality of food or friendliness of the staff".

The Fellgate and Hedworth ward councillor added concerns were about the potential of a new hot food takeaway use which clashes with council policies looking to improve health and wellbeing and reduce childhood obesity. A supporter for the application, speaking at South Shields Town Hall, said Tino's Café was not near any schools and that it was the responsibility of parents to look at what their children eat and drink, rather than businesses.

Reference was also made to a letter being circulated locally stating that Tino's Café was not operating within planning rules, and the supporter disputed that "one more takeaway" would add to the obesity issues around schoolchildren. Wilf Flynn, a former South Tyneside councillor, also spoke out in support of the hot food takeaway application and said the family business should be "entitled to expand".

"The reality is adults can make the decision and parents can get what they wish for their children using their own knowledge," he added. Council planning officers confirmed that the business was operating within its current lawful use but was looking to extend the amount of hot food takeaway it offered from the site.

It was also stressed that if the planning application was refused, the existing lawful use as a "lawful café/restaurant with ancillary takeaway" could continue. However, council planning officers said that if plans were approved, there would be nothing to prevent the premises from being used "always as a hot food takeaway".

During debate on the plans, Planning Committee members expressed a range of views about the application and council policies involved. Councillor Lynne Proudlock referenced obesity statistics for year six children in Fellgate and Hedworth and relevant council policy and said "the area does not need another takeaway".

Councillor Andrew Guy said he found the council policy "quite draconian to dictate whether there are takeaways or not", and added that tackling obesity was "really up to education and up to our schools". Councillor Paul Dean said he was an advocate of trying to reduce obesity and childhood obesity, including opposing the opening of hot food takeaways near schools.

The councillor questioned why Tino's Café could be recommended for refusal while national takeaway chains were able to open shops near schools elsewhere in the borough. Councillor Shirley Ford added she was persuaded by the council's public health team objection and said the Tino's Café planning application created an issue for public health, "whether it's very close to a school or not".

After being put to the vote the plans were refused by a majority of councillors, with six votes in favour of refusal, two against and two abstentions. The applicant has the right to challenge the council refusal ruling by lodging an appeal with the Secretary of State.