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Sustain and allies urge MPs to address children’s food in national planning policies

Sustain, alongside other organisations including The Food Foundation and Food Active, are urging the Government to champion children's health in the current planning inquiry by stemming the flood of unhealthy food.

Chef Tome and students in the kitchen garden. Copyright: Jim Stephenson

Chef Tome and students in the kitchen garden. Copyright: Jim Stephenson

Sustain, alongside partner organisations, is urging the Government to consider food within a major inquiry on children’s health. The Government’s Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee opened an inquiry on Children, young people and the Built Environment in November last year with organisations submitting written evidence earlier this year.

While the remit of the inquiry does not address food specifically, Sustain and several partner organisations advocating for better food have covered this issue in their responses. These organisations include the Food Foundation, Impact on Urban Health, Food Active, Bite Back 2030 and The National Allotment Society.

In Sustain’s inquiry response, we called on the Government to:

  • Progress national development management policies to avoid duplication and inefficient use of resources by each local planning authority.
  • Strengthen national strategies on obesity and public health. These should provide sufficient evidence for local planning policies. Consequently, local authorities should not have to provide evidence through a multitude of individual local studies.
  • Make climate change a material planning consideration because importantly this affects the long-term health of children.
  • Consider the definition of “amenity” in the advertising regulations so the effect on children’s mental and physical health can be taken into account in decisions.
  • Tackle pollution from intensive agriculture waste (which makes up 25% particulate pollution in cities).
  • Ensure access to open space at home and at school with the opportunity to be used for food growing.
  • Require new developments to include opportunities for food growing.
  • Set national internal space standards with adequate kitchen and dining space in homes and schools.
  • Ensure new developments are part of a walkable neighbourhood with easy access to services and healthy food linked by green routes planted for biodiverse and edible landscaping.

Fran Bernhardt, Commercial Determinants Coordinator said:

'All children deserve to be healthy but right now many of the places where our children spend time are increasing their risk of worse health. Particularly those children growing up in lower income neighbourhoods. That’s not right. We need the Government to intervene to champion all children’s health no matter where they’re from.'

Clive Betts MP, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee chair said:

'Planning and development should not be indifferent to the interests of young people.'

Highlights from other organisations’ submissions include:

  • Impact on Urban Health referenced its research, which highlights the relationship between deprivation in urban areas, the built environment, and children’s health. This study found that those living in areas with the highest rates of deprivation and obesity in London also have the most exposure to unhealthy food.
  • Food Active drew on its recent projects with children and young people across the North West to underscore how deprivation increases the risk of unhealthy food and food related ill health. This is specifically the case with regards to hot food takeaways and poor access to healthy food options. Food Active calls for The National Planning Policy Framework to “do more to bolster local activity by ensuring a greater emphasis on the importance of local food environments and systems to promote healthy weight”.
  • The Food Foundation detailed how poor quality housing with inadequate kitchen provision undermines people opportunities to cook nutritious meals with fresh produce. Additionally, that hot food takeaways contribute to high consumption of unhealthy foods across the population. It calls for more to be done to encourage local authorities to use planning policy to restrict the location and number of such outlets and action should be taken to restrict outdoor advertising of unhealthy food. Studies of such restrictions in London have shown a significant positive effect on people’s consumption habits.
  • Bite Back 2030’s research found that in the absence of social spaces, young people turn to commercial options, which often means hot food takeaways, coffee shops or dessert bars. Its evidence also links the density of hot food takeaways to the level of deprivation. Bite Back 2030 has said the Government should update national planning and licensing policies to make children’s health an explicit priority and make it easier for all young people to eat healthily, no matter where they live.
  • The National Allotment Society made the argument that allotments provide benefits for children and young people that cannot be obtained elsewhere in their neighbourhood, such as the opportunity to learn about where food comes from.

Sustain awaits with anticipation to see how food will be given due consideration by the committee.

In the meantime, local food partnerships and local planning authorities can use the tools they already have to work towards a sustainable food system via local planning policies. For more on how this can be achieved, see our planning pages.

All inquiry submissions can now be accessed here. Sustain’s written evidence is published here.

Published Tuesday 13 February 2024

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