DUDLEY'S new health and wellbeing chief says she will look to take inspiration from trailblazing councils as part of efforts to combat the rise in fast food outlets after BBC research revealed an increase in the number of takeaways that have opened up.

According to figures analysed by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit, the number of fast food eateries in the Dudley borough has risen from 145 out of a total of 265 food outlets in 2010 to 185 out of a total of 375 in 2018.

The figures show that although the percentage of takeaways in the borough has not risen in the last eight years – the rate of fast food outlets has increased from 46 per 100,000 people to 58 per 100,000 people; and that 49 per cent of all food outlets in the Dudley borough are fast food retailers.

Councillor Cathryn Bayton, Dudley's new cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Fast food is a significant contributor to childhood and adult obesity and something must be done to bring the rising number of outlets under control for the sake of all our residents."

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Cllr Bayton (pictured above) said she would look at the example of Barking and Dagenham Council which introduced changes to planning requirements in 2010 and which has seen the number of fast food outlets in its borough fall by 15 per cent while raising money for childhood obesity schemes.

She added: "Dudley is in the process of launching its health and wellbeing strategy. I will be studying the Barking and Dagenham scheme and the introduction of supplementary planning documents in Birmingham to see if we can integrate their lessons learned into our plan.

"I am also aware that the impact on local indices on childhood obesity in Barking and Dagenham have not been significantly improved. So our plan must also include education and encouragement for new outlets to serve healthier food.

"Unfortunately, for many users of fast food outlets cost is a higher priority than nutritional value. So in the long term a fair funding formula for Dudley and a more prosperous borough may make more difference than limited changes to planning regulations."

She said she would also look at whether Dudley can take inspiration from Southwark Council's Fizz Free February initiative - launched to encourage children to ditch fizzy drinks in February.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Many councils are challenged with striking the balance between a vibrant high street and a healthy one.

“However, it’s difficult to make healthier choices when our neighbourhoods are saturated with takeaways, restaurants and cafes.

“Councils can help address the growth of fast food outlets and we’re working with the food and drink industry to make everyday products healthier.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Local authorities have a range of powers to create healthier environments, including planning policies to limit the opening of additional fast food outlets close to schools and in areas of over-concentration.

“However, we know these decisions are not always easy for councils, which is why we recently announced our Trailblazer programme (www.gov.uk/government/news/local-authorities-supported-to-innovate-against-childhood-obesity) to support them to use their powers to best effect.

“We are also consulting on introducing calorie labelling for takeaway menus and other outlets including restaurants to help families make more informed decisions about their food when eating out or getting a takeaway.”