RESEARCH is to be done into the idea of barring takeaways from opening near schools.

Swindon Council’s planning committee ordered its officers to research the idea and to report back in the new year.

The motion, put forward at Tuesday night’s planning meeting, is the brainwave of the committee’s chairman Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Nythe).

But support for the idea appeared to be lukewarm.

The issue, Coun Heenan said, was “within 400 metres (roughly a quarter of a mile) of school gates there shouldn’t be a takeaway as a point of principle”.

He said: “Officers will go away and consider what other local authorities like Liverpool have done on this issue, and will report back to the planning committee and the obesity task group from the health committee.

“The debate is still to come on what happens. I think there’ll be strong emotions on both sides.

“Half a dozen other councils are looking at it at least.

“It’s only a contribution, no more than that.

“The priority has to be parental responsibility, cooking good food, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, but the council and planners should look at alternatives.”

He said between 1995 and 2008, child obesity had increased from 11 per cent to 17 per cent.

Coun Steve Allsopp (Lab, Parks), also on the planning committee, said: “I’m not against the proposal at all. It does seem kind of a non-sense putting on healthy lunches in school, and then next door we allow a takeaway to open that gets all its trade from the local secondary school.

“It’s something to look at, but not necessarily as a number one priority. I don’t think it’s barmy. I think it’s something we should review.”

But cabinet colleague David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick), in charge of schools, said he had some ideological misgivings.

“I’m sure most schools would take the view it’d be helpful in terms of efforts to reduce childhood obesity if those kind of temptations were not on the doorstep of schools.

“I don’t like the state making decisions on behalf of people. I would much rather people make their own decisions, provided they’re based on the best information there is available on that particular subject.

“From an ideological point of view I wouldn’t be overly keen on it.

“But I can see there some potential merits. I certainly welcome the debate. For now I’ll keep an open mind on the subject.”

The concept has split opinion amongst shoppers in the town centre.

Claire Sparrowhark, 30, said she agreed with the idea.

“They should be moved away from schools, but my children go to school in a village where they are not allowed off premises and there are no fast food outlets nearby anyway, so there is not an issue,” she said.

But Lynne Winwood, 42, disagreed with the plans.

“I don’t think that it is necessary. School children are usually not allowed off premises and the school should be able to manage the issue themselves,” she said.

Glenise Hobb, 65, said: “Otherwise children would be encouraged to eat more junk food. But, if fast food is taken away, they will just go to the sweet shop instead.”

“Also, the kids are aware of the health issues involved with fast food, and so are capable of making informed decisions for themselves.”