A LOCAL authority has been left facing questions over its actions to tackle obesity after one of its reports claimed the Covid and low life expectancy risk factor was not “a significant issue” in a ward where 40 per cent are children are obese.

A Darlington Borough Council planning committee report over a plan for a takeaway on Neasham Road states numerous objections had been lodged by residents over the number of takeaways in the area.

The officers’ report to the meeting next Wednesday highlights how concerns have also been raised over the sale of “unhealthy food” from the premises, which is in one of the borough’s most deprived wards, Bank Top and Lascelles.

The report, which follows the council facing questions over why the Covid death rate in the ward has been far higher than elsewhere in the borough, states the authority does not have a planning policy to limit the number or location of takeaways in the borough.

The report adds: “Obesity in an area has however been found to be a material consideration when deciding on applications for fast food outlets. There is not currently sufficient evidence to suggest that obesity is a significant issue in this part of the borough such that the application could be refused on this basis.”

The residents objections follow the authority launching its Childhood Healthy Weight Plan 2019-2024, which highlighted how the increasing consumption of meals out of the home or takeaways had been identified as an important factor contributing to rising levels of obesity.

The plan stated the Bank Top and Lascelles ward had the fourth highest number of takeaways in the borough, the highest proportion of obese five-year-olds and some 40 per cent of Year 6 students were obese. It also stated the ward had among the highest proportions of obese adults.

Chair of the council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee Councillor Cyndi Hughes said the council’s own public health statistics showed Bank Top had the worst health outcomes and the worst life expectancy rates of any ward in Darlington.

She said: “Babies being born from 2019 actually are expected to have a shorter life than their parents and grandparents.

“Limiting the number and location of takeaways would be a small step towards improving the health and well-being of residents in that ward and across Darlington.”

Cllr Hughes said other local authorities had created planning policies to prioritise supporting the health of residents over “a further proliferation of takeaways”.

The council’s cabinet member for health and housing, Councillor Kevin Nicholson, said after learning of the concerns he had asked the authority’s public health director to examine the obesity issue in Bank Top ahead of the planning meeting.

He said while numerous unhealthy eating opportunities could contribute to people being overweight, residents also had a personal responsibility and choices of where they chose to buy food.