A planner with An Bord Pleanála has said the “siting of fast-food outlets is a significant planning issue as it is a significant public health issue”, as plans for a fast-food restaurant near two schools was refused for the second time.
Scotco Eastern Ireland Ltd, for Brews Hill in Navan, Co Meath, had applied to An Bord Pleanála to build a KFC drive-through.
Inspector Kevin Moore, in his report on the application, said to refuse the plans would “provide for the needs of the local community and its most vulnerable — namely the school children”.
Reports this week have warned of the growing problem of Irish obesity.
“If one is serious about dealing with an evident public health concern, ie obesity, which is a planning matter in this instance in relation to siting of fast-food outlets and not solely a matter for public health authorities, once cannot determine that the siting of this development is in the interest of proper planning and sustainable development,” said Mr Moore.
An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission, deeming the proposed development would be “therefore contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
The parents’ association of St Joseph’s Mercy Primary School and Mary Mulligan, principal of St Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School, appealed against the application on several grounds, including the impact on the development of the healthy eating policy of the schools, which use a shared entrance beside the proposed site.
The appeal was taken after Meath County Council granted planning permission for the fast-food cafe and drive-through restaurant in the town last December.
An Bord Pleanála refused an application by KFC at the site on design reasons in March 2014.
Mr Moore said: “With regard to the primary school, one would reasonably expect that direct access by these younger pupils to the fast-food outlets would generally not be permitted in the everyday functioning of the school. Responsibility for access to these outlets would lie with the pupils’ parents/guardians primarily.
“A more serious issue arises, however, with the secondary school as second-level students invariably are more likely to have direct access at break times as well as walking to and from school.”
Mr Moore referred to Department of the Environment guidelines on local area plans which offer advice to promote active and healthier lifestyles by ensuring “exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar is reduced, such as the careful consideration of the appropriateness and/or location of fast-food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks”.
“The board cannot ignore this issue despite not referencing it in its previous decision,” said Mr Moore. “This is a most inappropriate location for this development. Its avoidance at this location by refusing permission will provide for the needs of the local community and its most vulnerable — namely the school children.”
Ms Mulligan said: “I’m absolutely delighted, thrilled, and relieved. It’s disappointing that we have had to go through this costly process a second time but we believed in it so much that we decided to fight it tooth and nail with the best advice we could get. I just hope now that the planners in Meath who passed the plans twice will now see sense.
“It’s so hard to try to teach healthy eating to students and especially if they had to pass a fast-food outlet a few times each day.”
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Tommy Reilly said: “I’m thrilled with the result. After all the reports on obesity in recent days, it’s only right that this development was refused planning permission beside two schools.”
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