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New fast food outlets may be banned near Wrexham schools

Councillors in Wrexham are considering proposals to establish exclusion zones of 400m around local schools to prevent new fast food outlets from opening.

The planning constraint has been recommended to support efforts to tackle childhood obesity and improve eating habits.

Councillors are also advising schools to ensure that pupils are kept on site at lunchtime and encouraged to eat healthy schools dinners.

Under current rules the individual school is able to decide if pupils are allowed to leave site during lunchtime. However, with figures suggesting that 25% of the county’s school children are obese, the council is keen to encourage healthy eating habits.

A spokesman for the council explained that the proposed exclusion zone would only apply to new fast food outlets that are being proposed.

The council have acknowledged that they may need to exercise some degree of flexibility where fast food outlets are keen to secure town centre locations which may fall within the 400m exclusion zone.

The council believes that there has been a significant improvement in the food that is now provided in the county’s schools.

The council has worked with local health organisations to produce a new planning document which aims to guide new fast food outlets to the most appropriate sites.

These will be sites that balance the recognised need and benefits that these outlets can bring to shopping centres and communities, with the need to minimise the associated impacts such as public health issues, smells, parking and noise.

If the scheme is approved Councillors have said that they will refuse proposed new fast food outlets within the exclusion zone and will instead direct them towards the district and town centre shopping centres.

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Cookery Courses News

New Research Suggests That Consumers Are Returning To Good Value Pub Food

Whilst traditional restaurants continue to struggle to attract customers in today’s difficult economic climate, new figures suggest that pubs are bucking this trend and are experiencing in increase in the number of customers that eat out.

The study, by market research firm, The NPD Group, is based on year on year growth figures from the last six months. The figures suggest that the recovery has been led by leading branded operators such as Harvester and Weatherspoons.

The research established that pubs that serve food are able to capitalise on longer opening times by serving food throughout the day. Many now offer breakfast and morning coffee in addition to the more traditional lunch and dinner.

The study also found that value is a key factor in the popularity of food service in pubs. With early evening and breakfast offers pubs are generally perceived to offer a value for money service which is valued by customers.

Branded pubs have seen a 4% increase in customer numbers in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same point last year. Unbranded pubs have been unable to match such strong performance.

During the same period the pub industry has seen a 2.2% growth in numbers with a 1.4% increase in average spend, whist the restaurant industry has experienced a 4.4% fall in its customer numbers.

The average spend per person in a pub during the last year was almost £8, compared to £9.50 for a full restaurant.

The figures also suggest that eating out at pubs is particularly appealing to families on a middle income, with over 55% of their customers falling in the household income range £19,000 – £49,999.

A spokesman for NPD explained that when the latest recession hit, many people gave up eating out and choose instead to either visit a fast food outlet or concentrate on cooking their own food. This view is supported by a grow in the number of people attending cookery courses.

There is a perception that restaurants are still very expensive and that they are in danger of pricing themselves out of the market.

The good news for the pub industry is that it is attracting consumers back for occasions when they are likely to spend more money, such as weekends and at dinner, when they are able bring along their children with the meal becoming more of a social occasions.

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Swindon Council To Consider Takeaway Ban

Swindon Town Council will consider introducing new planning regulations to prevent new fast food outlets from opening within a quarter of a mile of schools in the area.

The motion has been tabled with the intention of reducing the number of children that are overweight in the town. The plan is to help children avoid temptation and curb unhealthy eating habits.

Councillor Dale Heenan will propose that the new policy be introduced at the next planning committee. He explained that his intention is that planning officers will draft a policy that effectively bans fast food outlets from within a certain distance of a school.

Councillor Heenan’s view is that the issue should be debated in an open forum. If planning officers are able to draft a policy then the council would need to consult with residents to investigate whether or not they it is something that they would be willing to support.

If the idea is supported by the planning committee then the aim is for officers to begin work on the policy and report back in the New Year.

He has also suggested that the council should contact celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to ask if they would consider opening restaurants in Swindon, as well as possibly offering pupils healthy cookery courses.

Local GP and chairman of the national FDA, Dr Peter Swinyard explained that it’s really important that children eat a well balanced diet. From a medical perspective, Dr Swinyard supports the aim to reduce the amount of fast food that children consume.

However, a spokesman for the town’s business community claimed that the plan was slightly Draconian. Chris Watts feels that people should be able to make their own decisions about where they eat. His view is that plans such as these don’t address the root cause of the problem and, instead of restricting access; we should be looking more at education.

The Swindon proposal is very similar to a plan considered recently by councillors in Wrexham.