Restricting fast food takeaways near schools is an important part of Swindon Borough Council’s public health responsibilities.

That’s the view of Gary Sumner, the cabinet member responsible for strategic planning. It is his department’s draft local plan which contains a restriction on new takeaways within 400 metres' walking distance of schools in Swindon.

The Adver reported yesterday fast food giant McDonald's would like this removed.

Coun Sumner said: “The local plan consultation is still running and it would not be appropriate to comment on individual submissions until the consultation has concluded.

"In general terms I can say that national planning policy recognises the role of planning in promoting healthy communities, including how the environment can impact on health and influence healthy lifestyle choices. Local and national policies which regulate people’s exposure to fast food, contribute to improving diet and health. The high number of hot food takeaways is a concern in most towns, including here in Swindon, and although the availability of fast food is not the only factor contributing to poor diet and obesity, the availability of cheap, high density, high fat, high sugar and high salt food is undeniably a contributing factor. This needs to be taken into consideration as part of our approach to changing eating behaviour and reducing obesity levels.

“Public health is a statutory responsibility for councils and the planning system has always played an important part in tackling public health issues.

"The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has made reference to the need to not only control takeaway numbers but also their locations, and is encouraging local authorities to use their powers and opportunities to create healthier environments.

"This includes the power to develop planning policies to limit the opening of additional hot food takeaway outlets close to schools and in areas of over-concentration.”

McDonald's has been contacted about its objection to the restriction but has provided no additional comment.