"No new fast-food outlets allowed! Evaluating the effect of planning policy on the local food environment in the North East of England"

Heather Brown, Huasheng Xiang, Viviana Albani, Louis Goffe, Nasima Akhter, Amelia Lake, Stewart Sorrell, Emma Gibson, John Wildman

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Abstract

The environment in which we live impacts on our health. The food available to us in our environment
is likely to influence what we eat and subsequently our weight. In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic,
the UK government has re-committed to reducing adult and childhood obesity rates. The use of
planning policy can be one way for both local and national government to help shape a healthy
environment. In England there are three main types of planning policy used to promote a healthy food
environment: 1) restricting new outlets near schools; 2) restricting new outlets if the density of
existing outlets has surpassed a certain threshold of all retail outlets, 3) restricting new outlets if
childhood obesity rates are above a certain threshold. In 2015, Gateshead council, a local authority in
the North East of England implemented all three types of guidance. We utilise a longitudinal
administrative dataset, the Food Standards Agency Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Data, covering the
period 2012-2019 on all premises selling or preparing food in Great Britain. To analyse the impact of
employing all three types of planning guidance on the density and proportion of fast-food outlets in
Gateshead, we employ a propensity score matching difference-in-difference approach. We match
small geographical areas in Gateshead (lower super output areas) to other local authorities in the
North East with similar demographic characteristics that did not implement planning guidance.
Results show a reduction in density of fast-food outlets by -17.50 and a 11% decrease in the
proportion of fast-food outlets in Gateshead compared to other similar local authorities in the North
East. These results suggest that a multi-pronged planning approach can significantly change the food
environment in the short term (4 years).
Original languageEnglish
Article number115126
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date13 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2022

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