Two HSE public health doctors have written to An Bord Pleanála calling on it to refuse planning permission for a drive-thru fast food restaurant in Skerries in north Dublin
Intervening in the already contentious planning battle, Dr Fionnuala Cooney and Dr Ruth McDermott in a joint submission to the appeals board state that “we strongly recommend that planning permission is not granted to this proposed development”.
The specialists in public health medicine state that “the rationale for our objection is that the proposed facility is likely to have an adverse effect on the diet and physical activity levels in the local population, which in turn could have an adverse impact on childhood obesity levels”.
The two doctors with a work address at the Dept of Public Health, HSE-East, Dr Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin 8 state that this is because the development is designed to provide a drive-through facility to individuals, groups and families; provide fast food which is likely to be high in fat, sugar and salt and be located in a convenient, accessible and prominent location close to childcare and educational facilities.
Earlier this year, Fingal County Council gave the go-ahead to Marbleside Ltd for the fast-food outlet on lands at the Skerries Point shopping centre.
The Irish Heart Foundation (HF) is one of a number of parties to lodge appeals against the plan. In its appeal, the IHF point out that there are four national schools and one secondary school within walking distance of the planned outlet.
In the HSE objection on HSE headed paper, Dr Cooney and Dr McDermott argue that refusing planning permission for the fast-food restaurant "would be in keeping with our 'Healthy Ireland' policy".
They state: “Our objection is underpinned by the principle that Government and society have a moral and legal responsibility to act on behalf, and in the best interests of children in reducing the risk of obesity through protecting children’s right to health."
The two argue that “there should be consistency in planning in relation to food outlets close to education facilities such as the implementation of the ‘no fry zone’ policy in Co Wicklow".
The two stated that they have prepared their submission “as we regard this planning application as a matter of significant importance to population health”.
They state that their concerns over the proposal relate to adverse effects of this development on the population including the risk of obesity.
They state that currently, six out of every ten adults and one in four children are either overweight or obese.
The doctors made their objection in response to the appeals board seeking a submission from the HSE on the proposal.
In response to the HSE submission, Fingal County Council point out that the zoning for the site permits fast food outlets in principle and that the proposal is acceptable.
The Co Council point out that the Skerries Educate Together NS is 300 metres from the site “however, one would reasonably expect that direct access by pupils of a primary school to the proposal would generally not be permitted in the everyday functioning of the school”.
Fingal County Council gave the plan the go-ahead in spite of 154 objections and others to appeal the Council decision include the Board of Management of the Skerries Educate Together NS, the Skerries Community Residents Association, the Kelly’s Bay Residents Association and Louise O'Reilly TD (SF).
On the proximity of the planned fast food outlet to a local Educate Together national school, consultants for Marbleside Ltd told the Council that students attending the school will not be permitted to leave the school premises during school hours.
The submission states that outside operating hours, the responsibility for access to the fast-food restaurant “should fundamentally lie with parents and guardians”.
The consultants state that therefore, the proposed development will not present a risk to the public health of school students.
The consultants also contend that the proposal represents a positive and complementary addition to the range of retail services currently being offered at Skerries Point shopping centre.
A decision is due on the case next month.