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Current statutory guidelines for planning authorities outline that they can ensure reduced exposure of children to the promotion of unhealthy foods, such as through “the careful consideration of the appropriateness and/or location of fast-food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks”. This guidance on local area plans suggests that authorities develop specific proposals and objectives.
Planning authorities are required to “have regard” for these guidelines. However, campaigners for ‘no-fry zones’ have warned that specific provisions are required in local authority development plans to effectively challenge relevant planning applications.
The creation of new planning guidelines is an action point in the forthcoming obesity strategy, MI has been informed.
Minister for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy would not provide details on possible reforms but said the guidance would be “more specific” and promote a “standardised” approach nationally.
The Department of Health, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and HSE are working on the issue, she said.
Meanwhile, a “portion” of the revenue generated by the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened drinks will go into a fund for healthy living initiatives, the Minister stated. The Programme for Government commits to introducing a “health levy” on sugar-sweetened drinks but also cites the proposed sugar tax as among a number of measures that will finance reductions in personal tax rates, such as the phasing-out of the Universal Social Charge (USC).
It is intended to “ring-fence a certain amount” of funding generated by the sugar tax to establish a “Healthy Ireland Fund”, Minister Corcoran Kennedy told MI. She described the fund as applicable to Government departments and local authorities but the details are still being worked out. She said establishing the fund is a key part of the forthcoming policy A Healthy Weight for Ireland — Obesity Policy and Action Plan, 2016-2025.
Asked if the obesity strategy will have a ring-fenced budget, she said every department “will be challenged to factor into their budgets initiatives that are rooted in the obesity strategy and action plan”.
See feature, page 4-5