Childhood obesity levels have led to planning permission for a fast food outlet in South Tyneside being refused.

South Tyneside Council has rejected proposals for a takeaway in Hebburn, citing childhood obesity levels in the area as one of the grounds for refusal.

Planning guidance adopted last year which seeks to manage the proliferation of fast food outlets was used to steer the decision.

The proposal related to a change of use application for a vacant shop on Victoria Road East, in the Hebburn South ward.

The Supplementary Planning Document – SPD 22 – specifies that planning permission will not be granted for hot food takeaways in wards where the level of obesity in year 6 pupils is over 10%.

In this particular ward, it far exceeds that, with more than a third of 10- and 11-year-olds classed as overweight or very overweight.

Cllr Tracey Dixon, Lead Member for Independence and Wellbeing, said: “Both the levels of childhood obesity and the number of hot food takeaways in the Borough are higher than national averages.

“Health is one of our key priorities and we are committed to tackling these issues proactively. Limiting exposure to unhealthy food choices is one of the ways we can do this.

“We know that fast food is often a popular choice among children so managing the proliferation of takeaways is an important factor in promoting healthy living.

“It is much harder to make healthy choices in areas where there is a proliferation of fast food outlets.

“The supplementary planning document was intended to help in our fight against obesity and health inequalities and I am pleased that it played a role in determining this planning application.”

A petition and more than 20 letters of objection were received in relation to the proposal, some of which highlighted concerns about childhood obesity.

The planning guidance also seeks to refuse applications for premises within 400m of a secondary school which could make it easier for children to access unhealthy food options at lunch or home time.

Earlier this year it was used for the first time, when planning permission was refused for a takeaway in South Shields town centre, where local childhood obesity levels were a factor.

The number of takeaways in South Tyneside has increased by 18 per cent since 2014. There are currently 139 ‘A5 use’ units – which includes pizza shops, fish and chip shops, kebab shops and Chinese and Indian takeaways in the Borough. These are more likely to be found in areas with more deprivation.

Councillor Dixon added: “This trend is contributing to an environment where unhealthy food options are widely available and is at odds with our efforts to tackle obesity and health inequalities.”