Many communities do not have easy access to healthy fresh vegetables and fruit locally. Buying food at convenience stores and takeaway outlets, which sell a range of heavily processed foods, is the only local option for many people. Local authorities have an important role to play in providing the right environment for people to eat healthily and sustainably. They control planning, public and environmental health, leisure and recreation.
Planning and licensing law should provide specific guidance to local authority planning committees to:
- Monitor the location of new convenience stores and type to ensure all communities are able to purchase fresh vegetables and fruit locally.
- Discourage the proliferation of hot food takeaway outlets. Ban those within close proximity to schools and public buildings and use licensing to encourage them to improve the healthiness and sustainability of food sold. Consider issuing supplementary guidance on healthier foods and advertising for existing takeaway restaurants, specifically in areas around schools, parks and where access to healthier alternatives is limited.
- Put support and incentives in place through planning or access to land and premises for healthier affordable retail e.g. greengrocers, co-operatives and street markets, especially in deprived areas.
- Ensure that the public health team is consulted on planning applications, including at pre-application stage.
- Make provision for more community growing spaces, including as a requirement in new developments.
Local authorities should develop coherent policy on future corporate partnerships or sponsorships and advertising that welcomes opportunities for investment, whilst avoiding those that promote unhealthy foods and drinks.
Local authorities should use their influence to encourage businesses to accept Healthy Start Vouchers, and support campaigns with a health and sustainability aim e.g. Veg Cities or Meat Free Mondays.
Finally, local authorities should support and promote local voluntary and community food partnerships and projects that encourage a healthy food culture, such as Sustainable Food Cities.