The reasons are complex but there is little doubt that the price and availability of high-calorie food is a significant factor. Just as the availability of green spaces influences levels of exercise, the density of fast food outlets makes it easier for us to consume too much, too often. Many of these outlets have poor nutritional information.
There is a direct correlation between obesity and heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Tackling this is a government priority but when it comes to planning there are no powers for local authorities to refuse applications on grounds of health, unlike in some parts of England, where the density of fast food outlets can be taken into account.
Professor Annie Anderson should be listened to. We must give councils a greater role in considering the “food environment” of an area when applications are considered.
New applications do not affect existing businesses and unhealthy food options are available everywhere – supermarkets, petrol stations and convenience stores – not just in fast food outlets or coffee shops. So, understanding what to refuse and approve won’t be straightforward. What is clear is that setting aside health considerations is no longer appropriate for a nation that is getting fatter every day.