I believe it is important that members of the public know and understand opinions being expressed and decisions being taken at a high level that affect the wellbeing of our young people.
The headteacher and governors of Goosehill School drafted a thorough and considered objection to the proposed retail park that would be built opposite to the school’s new building on the County Hall site.
Our specific concern was the proposed drive-thru fast food outlet, which documentation submitted with the planning application actually identifies as a McDonalds.
We quoted extensively from a document issued in March 2014 by Public Health England, in association with the Chartered Institute of Environment Health and the Local Government Association, entitled Obesity And The Environment: Regulating The Growth Of Fast Food Outlets.
The document: “Addresses the opportunities to limit the number of fast food takeaways (primarily hot food takeaways, especially near schools). It summarises the importance of action on obesity and a specific focus on fast food takeaways, and outlines the regulatory and other approaches that can be taken at local level.”
We also referred to a recent article in November 2016. The Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies revealed that the proportion of overweight children leaving primary school in England has reached an all-time high.
Data from the National Child Measurement Programme showed that 34.2 per cent of children aged ten to 11 were overweight or obese in 2015-16, and 22.1 per cent were overweight or obese in Reception year — more than one in five.
Our letter, which was copied to Daljit Lally, Director of Children’s Services, went on to say that we expected Children’s Services to object vociferously to this application as the county council is part of the health trust and also the Local Education Authority, with responsibility for children in its schools.
In a response copied to me, Mrs Lally accepts that she has duties with regard to the wellbeing of children, but says that she cannot agree with the concerns expressed by the governing body in relation to the commercial development proposed opposite the new school building.
She goes on to say that although some local authorities have policies regarding the location of fast food outlets near schools, these apply to schools in the secondary age group only.
This is absolutely not the case and, given the information provided in our letter is, in my view, a failure to understand the guidance and the implications.
In placing the responsibility entirely on parents and schools, I consider that the county council has reneged on its responsibilities and failed to lead by example.
I sincerely hope that Mrs Lally will reconsider her approach.
Chairman of Governors, Goosehill School