The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s policy group on obesity says the initiative could play an important role in protecting children’s health.
Prof Donal O’Shea and Prof Catherine Hayes, who jointly chair the group, say planning regulations should prohibit fast-food outlets from opening up within 400m of schools, parks, or playgrounds.
“Planning has a key role to play in supporting health within the community and ensuring that the physical environment allows for active, healthy lifestyles,” said Prof O’Shea.
The No Fry Zone campaign was started by parents in Greystones, Co Wicklow, who successfully opposed plans by McDonalds to open an outlet across the road from three schools, coming within 30m of the nearest.
Efforts are being made to have exclusion zones formalised through an amendment to the draft Wicklow County Development Plan. Wicklow County Council management is opposed to the idea.
The RCPI has now lodged a formal submission on the development plan in support of creating exclusion zones. “Co Wicklow has a real opportunity to lead by example in this case and to show the way for other counties in Ireland to introduce similar restrictions to ensure that children are protected from weight-related illness,” said Prof O’Shea.
“Levels of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions are already very high in Ireland. We need to act now to reduce those levels for future generations.”
Philip Moyles, chairman of the No Fry Zone group, welcomed the support. “It is fantastic that these leading experts have strongly endorsed the No Fry Zone campaign,” he said.
“Based on the evidence available and the expertise of both Prof O’Shea and Prof Hayes, it is hard to imagine how the councillors in Wicklow could vote against having this amendment included in the County Development Plan.”
Junior Finance Minister and local TD Simon Harris tweeted that he had lodged his submission in support of the campaign.
The deadline for submissions is February 19.