Fast food shops makes up majority of eateries in Barking and Dagenham

Fast food restaurants have proliferated in Havering.

Fast food restaurants have proliferated in Havering. - Credit: Archant

Takeaway shops outnumber all other types of food outlets in Barking and Dagenham — a situation unmatched in any London borough, figures reveal.

Takeaway shops outnumber all other types of food outlets in Barking and Dagenham — a situation unmatched in any London borough, figures reveal.

The borough’s 145 fast food joints account for more than half (59 per cent) of cafés, restaurants and eateries, according to Office for National Statistics data compiled by the BBC and shared with the Post.

When compared with ONS population estimates for the middle of 2018, the figures show more takeaways and mobile food stands per capita than when records began eight years ago; the number of fast food outlets for every 100,000 people rising from 52 to 69 over the period.

This ratio is the fourth highest of any London borough, matched only by Westminster (which has 127 takeaways per 100,000 population), Camden (89), Islington (83) and Tower Hamlets (75).

But a council spokesman disputed this, pointing to data produced by Public Health England which ranks the borough 18th in the capital for the prevalence of “hot food takeaways”.

There were, according to the health body, 87 fast food outlets like burger bars, chippies and kebab shops for every 100,000 people — roughly one every 1,100 residents.

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The borough’s 2010 supplementary planning document, Saturation Point, a policy framework produced with the NHS, counted 187 “hot food takeaways” in 2010, nearly twice as many as in ONS records (95).

Differing definitions of what constitutes ‘fast food’ may explain this discrepancy. The Public Health England research even notes that the term “means different things to different people”.

“Due to our very strict policy on restricting hot food takeaways only two hot food takeaways have been permitted in the last eight years and one of these was an appeal decision and only last week we used our guidance to win an appeal on the basis of our 2010 guidance,” said the council spokesman.

“All takeaways need planning permission so we can’t account for any others.”

Barking and Dagenham, he went on, is “regarded as leading the way in planning for health”.

The research by Public Health England, published earlier this year, also found that the country’s poorest communities are junk food hotspots, home to five times more outlets than in the most affluent areas.

A recent study suggests exposure to too many pizza and fried food outlets can nearly double the risk of obesity.

The issue is particularly relevant to the UK, home to more overweight or obese children than anywhere else in the EU. The rate of Year 6 pupils (aged 10 to 11) is at a record high, rising more than a third since 2006 to 4.2pc.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, have set a target to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

But, according to Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, local authorities may struggle to achieve this.

“Many councils are challenged with striking the balance between a vibrant high street and a healthy one,” she said.

“However, it’s difficult to make healthier choices when our neighbourhoods are saturated with takeaways, restaurants and cafes.

“Everyone has a role in tackling obesity. Councils can help address the growth of fast food outlets and we’re working with the food and drink industry to make everyday products healthier.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Local authorities have a range of powers to create healthier environments, including planning policies to limit the opening of additional fast food outlets close to schools and in areas of overconcentration.

“However, we know these decisions are not always easy for councils, which is why we recently announced our Trailblazer programme to support them to use their powers to best effect.

“We are also consulting on introducing calorie labelling for takeaway menus and other outlets including restaurants, to help families make more informed decisions about their food when eating out or getting a takeaway.”