Plain English summary
About 60,000 shops in England sell hot food to take away. Takeaway food tends to be high in salt, fat and calories. People who live and work in areas with the most takeaways eat more takeaway food and are more likely to live with obesity than those who live and work elsewhere. Online food ordering ‘apps’ make it easier to access takeaway food, but this still mostly comes from local takeaways.
Local Authorities (LAs) are increasingly worried about the impact of takeaways on health. Existing takeaways cannot be shut down, but a quarter of LAs have applied planning rules to new takeaways in this typically fast growing sector. The most common approach is 400-800m (0.25-0.5 mile) ‘management zones’ around schools where planning permission is denied to new takeaways. Forty-four LAs have zones and 70 more are considering them. In previous research, our interviews with planners suggest that the focus on schools is a strategy to make zones more politically acceptable. These policies are intended to target whole communities. There is very little research on the impacts of preventing new takeaways from opening.
Our main research question is: “What is the impact of takeaway management zones on the number of takeaways?” Using a dataset of all food outlets in England, we will compare takeaway numbers in areas with and without management zones, two years before and after zones are introduced. We will also study areas just outside zones in case takeaways are displaced there. Any health impacts of zones are likely to be small and take a long time to occur. We will use statistical modelling to estimate the impact of zones on obesity and health. Policymakers are concerned that takeaway management zones may harm local economies. We will conduct an economic analysis to explore the costs and benefits of these zones across the whole of society.
Takeaways management zone policies vary between LAs and may not be implemented as intended. We will interview LA officials to understand what, if any, problems they had with implementation, and how these were addressed. We will work with participants to design management zone policies that address these problems and share these with LAs who have not yet implemented zones. Takeaway management zones are more likely to be adopted and effective if they are acceptable to local residents and business people. We will use written responses to statutory local consultations on management zones to see how food businesses react. In ‘go along’ interviews with local residents, we will explore views on takeaways and management zones in depth. We will use a larger survey of people to understand any wider concerns.