Food Plymouth (Plymouth’s network organisation) put together a substantial evidence-based paper about food in Plymouth, and this information was used to write a topic paper which made food policy recommendations for the Council to consider in drafting local planning policies.
The resultant Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan now has policies for delivering healthy communities, in particular, how development can encourage healthy eating.
This has been a five year complicated journey.
In 2014, Plymouth Council commenced a full review of their Local Development Framework Core Strategy. They had intended to produce a new Local Plan (The Plymouth Plan 2015 – 2031) to be a single strategic plan for the city. They initially asked for comments on the many evidence base documents which would inform the Plymouth Plan.
The Council’s Food Topic Study (2014) considered how the Plymouth Plan could increase access to healthy and local food for Plymouth’s growing population, and support a sustainable food economy. The topic paper used information from 'The Future of Food in Plymouth 2014-2031', a report to Plymouth City Council prepared by the Food Plymouth Partnership.
Plymouth Plan Part One was approved by the City Council in 2015 following an extensive period of community engagement, setting out an overarching strategy for future change and growth in the city.
Then in 2016, three councils, Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon, agreed to work together on a joint local plan.
Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan
The Joint Local Plan sets out development policies for delivering healthy communities. In particular, the ways in which development can encourage active and healthy lifestyles through healthy eating. Two specific policies relate to food (Policies Dev5 & DEV6).
These policies were considered at the examination into the Joint Local Plan. The Inspectors gave their blessing to the provision of space for community food growing and the control of hot food takeaways.
- New development will now be encouraged to include community food growing and allotments, edible landscaping or orchards to promote health and well-being across Plymouth and South West Devon. (Policy DEV5)
- Access to a local convenience store within reasonable walking distance of home. (Policy SPT5)
- Two Plymouth parks will allocate land for food growing. (Policies PLY19 & 41)
- A hot food takeaway policy applies to premises around secondary schools in Plymouth. (Policy DEV6)
The hot food takeaway policy was vigorously challenged all the way through, right up to and including at the Examination.
Evolution of the hot food takeaway policy
Jan 2015 Part One Consultation Draft of the Plymouth local plan intended that the hot food takeaway policy should apply to all schools and the Council would also keep under consideration the potential to extend this policy to include parks and youth centres. They spoke of investing in the health of Plymouth’s children.
The hot food takeaway policy was not included in the approved strategic policies (Sept 2015) which stated the detailed approach would be forthcoming through a supplementary planning document.
The current policy, with an exclusion zone only around secondary schools in Plymouth, was included in the draft Joint Local Plan. At the examination the Council provided further justification for this policy in the face of challenges by major hot food takeaway retailers.
The Joint Local Plan Inspectors were satisfied that the hot food policy will assist in positively managing the food environment within a 400 metre radius of Plymouth’s secondary schools and noted the policy is backed by national and local evidence.
Plymouth City Council’s evidence for the hot food takeaway policy drew from the Health and Wellbeing Board, Plymouth’s Healthy Child Quality Mark initiative, Child Poverty Needs Assessment & the Food Plymouth Food Charter. National sources included:
- The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)
- The Public Health Guideline on cardiovascular disease prevention (PH25)
- Public Health England’s (PHE) obesity knowledge and information team (formerly the National Obesity Observatory)
- Healthy people, healthy places briefing - Obesity and the environment: regulating the growth of fast food outlets (PHE publication 2014)
- Urban Design Compendium 2 and the Institute of Highways and Transport, Guidelines for providing journeys on foot. (The 400m zone is an accepted standard across many planning policies).
It is significant that Plymouth City Council aims to address the food quality issue in a variety of ways and planning policy is just one of the methods.
New Policies to support access to healthier food in the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan 2019
Policy DEV5 Community food growing and allotments
The LPAs will support and encourage local food growing by seeking provision of new allotments and/or community food growing sites where there is a deficiency of provision, having regard to the overall demand for and supply of such facilities in the locality and the provisions of Policy SPT2. Development on existing allotment and community food growing sites will only be permitted where there is an overriding sustainable development justification for the proposal, with re-provision of the lost facilities in a location appropriate to the demand.
6.16 The provision of allotments and food growing land is an important component of a healthy and sustainable community. The LPAs will use a local standard to seek adequate provision for these facilities as set out in Policy SPT2 and its supporting text. Opportunities to explore food growing within the development such as edible landscaping, planting orchards are also encouraged.
(ie To be in line with the key principles for development as expressed in Policy SPT2, Sustainable linked neighbourhoods and sustainable rural communities )
Policy SPT5 Provision for retail development
Proposals which meet compelling 'qualitative' needs for retail development will be considered favourably. In particular these types of need include:
1. In support of the principle of sustainable linked neighbourhoods and sustainable rural communities, allowing for a small scale local convenience shop in locations where there is no other such shop within a reasonable walking distance of a residential area.
3.46 Furthermore, it is important that everyone has access to good quality shopping facilities and in particular good quality food. Access to fresh food within neighbourhoods and local communities is an important determinant of health as well as contributing to sustainable patterns of movement and the creation of strong communities. A sustainable community should have good access to a local convenience store within reasonable walking distance of residents and an appropriate level of provision of shops and non-retail services.
Food growing in Plymouth’s parks
Policy PLY19 Central Park - Strategic Green Space Site
5. Encouraging and expanding food growing opportunities within the park to complement the existing allotment provision.
Policy PLY41 Derriford Community Park Strategic Greenspace
2. Delivery of the Environmental Learning Hub at the heart of the park, next to the new school building north of the new Seaton Neighbourhood. The learning hub will include:
iii. Will provide a focal and arrival point for the Park and include outdoor facilities such as growing areas, orchards and play spaces.
v. The hub will provide a focus for outdoor learning, with an emphasis on wildlife, food production and farming.
4. Enable the continuation of farming within the city. Grazing by livestock will play a crucial role in managing the park and increasing the wildlife value of the grasslands. The park will need to retain facilities for operational farm activities and access. The park will also provide focus for community food growing and processing facilities that support wider community led social enterprise opportunities.
Policy DEV6 Hot food takeaways in Plymouth
The LPAs within the Plymouth Policy Area will resist proposals to provide new hot food takeaways within a 400 metre radius of providers of secondary education to protect the school's food environment.
6.17 Tackling food poverty is recognised as an effective measure in reducing health inequalities, which is a issue of great significance within Plymouth. The Plymouth Health and Wellbeing Board identified obesity and healthy weight as a priority for tackling health inequalities across the city and the City is committed to taking co-ordinated and integrated action to tackle the issue through inter-agency working.
6.18 The Plymouth Report 2014 identifies that across the city 24.9 per cent of children are identified as having excess weight or are obese. A particular measure to help change this narrative is the protection of the food environment (which represents the characteristics of food that is available within a particularly locality) around secondary schools. By limiting the availability of hot food take aways in these locations, there is an increased opportunity for health benefits to be realised in young people. This measure is complementary to other measures in the JLP and Plymouth Plan which support healthy lifestyle choices, and to the work of schools in gaining the Healthy Child Quality Mark which ensures that nutrition is taught and that schools facilitate healthier behaviour in children.
6.19 Detailed guidance on the implementation of this policy through the planning process will be provided in the Plymouth Policy Area Supplementary Planning Document. This is to ensure that there is a proportionate and effective approach to managing the food environment around schools.