Evaluation of planning policy to regulate takeaway food outlets for improved health in England

  • Thompson, Claire (CoI)
  • Burgoine, Tom (PI)
  • Adams, Jean (CoI)
  • White, Martin (CoI)
  • Cummins, Steven (CoI)
  • Smith, Richard (CoI)
  • Cobiac, Linda (CoI)
  • Chang, Michael (CoI)
  • Mytton, Oliver (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


Takeaways occupy their own ‘use-class’ (category for the use of a non-residential building) within the English planning system. Planning permission must be obtained from the local authority (LA) for a new takeaway premises or to change the use-class of an existing premises to a takeaway. Planners are unable to remove planning permission from (i.e. close down) existing takeaways. However, they can refuse planning permission to new outlets. Using the planning system in this way to create healthier neighbourhoods is encouraged by national planning guidance. Our census of all 325 English LAs found the most common planning approach to restricting proliferation of new takeaways is the school-based ‘exclusion zone’ (‘the intervention’) (18). The intended effect of this intervention is to prevent further increases in the number of takeaways in these areas through denying planning permission to applications from prospective new takeaway owners.

Despite a decade of implementation, the retail and health impacts of takeaway exclusion zones are entirely unknown. We will exploit the natural experiment of variation in local authority implementation of takeaway exclusion zones around schools to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of impacts on retail, health and
economic outcomes; implementation and opportunities to optimise the intervention; and explore acceptability to businesses and the public.

This project is funded by the NIHR.

Layman's description

Takeaway food outlets (‘takeaways’) sell hot food to eat off the premises. A quarter of UK adults eat takeaway food weekly. Takeaway food is energy-dense, nutrient poor and served in large portion sizes. Local Authorities (LA) are increasingly worried about the impact of takeaways on health. To address
this, they can deny planning permission to new takeaways. About 25% of LAs have planning rules on takeaways for health reasons. The most common approach is 400-800m ‘exclusion zones’ around schools where planning
permission is denied to new takeaways. There is very little research on the many possible impacts of preventing new takeaways from opening. Our main research question is: “What is the impact of exclusion zones on the number of takeaways?”

Using a large dataset of food outlets in England, we will compare the number of takeaways in areas with and without exclusion zones, two years before and after zones are introduced. We will also study areas just outside zones. As there are many influences on diet and obesity, any health impacts of zones are likely to be small and take a long time to occur making them difficult to study. Instead we will use statistical modelling to estimate the impact of zones on diet and obesity.
Effective start/end date1/04/211/04/24


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