An issue that is worrying a lot of LJ residents is the over-abundance of fast food outlets – selling cheap, unhealthy meals – which often attract children.
Two planning applications before Lambeth Council at the moment have especially caused comments. The one is for the site next to the Hero of Switzerland Pub on Loughborough Road and the other is for the site on the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Flaxman Road.
Both have been proposed as sites for chicken takeaways.
We have a lot of takeaway joints already and not many shops selling healthy fruit and veg, healthy meals or even aspirational shops providing jobs or fun affordable clothes or funky fashions.
Anthea Massey co-chair of the Loughborough Junction Group points out in her well-written piece for belowtheriver.co.uk, that the group has researched the issue and found “seven existing takeaways within a two-minute walk of the two proposed new ventures”.
And borough-wide the picture is even more depressing with Lambeth hosting some 91 and 173 fast food takeaways for every 100,000 residents, which is one of the highest ratios in the country.
So it’s a big issue! BUT I wonder what alternatives there are at the moment as recession bites into families’ incomes? You can get a fairly big bucket of chicken for a small amount of money … when you are strapped for time and money it’s an answer.
Some of the objections lodged with the council veer towards the patronising – with worries that locals won’t be able to see past the new venue and walk the extra few metres to the veggie shop or Tesco (a whole other debate) for fruit, veg and other goodies.
There is support for a proposal to stop any new takeaways being approved within 400 metres of a school in Lambeth’s new Local Plan, which is out for consultation.
Again I agree in principle but again it’s more complex than it seems as many of the new proposed businesses are franchise-owned takeaways, often the cheapest way for people to get into the food industry and start their business.
Perhaps we are fighting this issue too narrowly. While people in our areas are struggling with bills, frozen benefits and rising food prices we can’t afford to be too high-minded.
And Save Our School Food Standards! makes another valid point – banning takeaways from nearby schools will be an exercise in futility if Michael Gove’s academies are not subject to the same mandatory nutritional standards as state schools.
The School Food Trust’s 2012 survey of academies found nine out of every ten surveyed were “selling at least one of the snack foods high in sugar, salt or fat that had been banned from vending machines in other state schools”.
While the government refuses to apply the standards to all schools – including academies and free schools – a chicken takeaway or two might be rather beside the point?
There are excellent community projects in and around LJ already for instance Myatt’s Fields Park is growing fruit and veg in its community garden and holds cooking classes.
But without the luxury of time and money, people will use takeaways and surely that is their right unless we can all think of how we can support viable alternatives! SM
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