Since 2009, a growing number of local authorities in England have been refusing planning permission to new takeaways in ‘exclusion zones’ around schools. The health and other impacts of exclusion zones are unknown. If effective, this absence of evidence is a barrier to further adoption and implementation and delays public health benefit.
The aims of this study are to evaluate the impacts of this intervention on retail, health and economic outcomes; to study implementation and opportunities for optimisation; and to explore acceptability to businesses and the public.
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.
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”). 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. The precise specification of exclusion zones varies. They can be different shapes and/or sizes, and aligned to the school gate or the central point of a school. They can surround primary schools, secondary schools or both. Our interviews with planners suggest that this focus on schools is a strategy to make exclusion zones more politically acceptable.