Councillors will take forward a proposal to devise a policy on stopping advertising of unhealthy food and drink on bus shelters Swindon Borough Council owns.

Members of the Addressing Inequality Policy Formulation Committee agreed unanimously to set up a special task group to come up with a fully worked-out policy.

That will have to be agreed by the ruling cabinet before it is enacted.

The committee heard from director of public health Professor Steve Maddern and his colleague Lewis Bird on how preventing the advertising of burgers, chips and sugary, fizzy drinks could have a very positive effect on obesity rates in Swindon and the health of the population.

Swindon Advertiser: These pictures, all taken in one week, shows how many adverts for fast food people are exposed to

Mr Maddern said: “We are looking at everything the council does in order to help residents live healthily for longer.

“This is an opportunity to do something on advertising. It’s something that other local authorities have done with some success.

"This committee is the place for this policy to be developed if that’s what members want to do.”

Mr Bird a specialist in the active living team at the council said obesity was an issue of inequality, with rates of being overweight and obese being significantly higher in children at reception age and in year six in the more deprived wards in the borough.

In Penhill & Upper Stratton, Gorse Hill & Pinehurst, and Liden, Eldene & Park South, and Walcot & Park North obesity rates are around 40 per cent, compared to below 30 per cent in Chiseldon & Lawn, Old Town and  Ridgeway.

Mr Lewis showed pictures of bus stops around the borough from different wards show displaying adverts for fast food.

He said: “You can see the extent of the advertising, which does drive consumer behaviour.

“Exposure to food high in fat sugar and salt is linked to a preference for such foods, more snacking and higher calorie intake.

"Young people who recall seeing adverts for such food daily are more likely to be obese.”

He said a ban on advertising such foods on London transport has been linked to “a positive effect on prevention of obesity for almost 100,000 Londoners.

Research suggests it led to 94,000 fewer cases of obesity, 1915 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease and prevented or delayed 2,857 cases of diabetes.”

Members were told there would be no financial impact on the council as a whole on any restrictions and the fees it receives for bus shelter adverts are kept for maintenance of bus stops and shelters.

The committee agreed unanimously to proceed with working up a full policy.