Chicken shops have had their chips if Butler gets her way

Alison Butler, Croydon Council’s deputy leader, has declared war on fast food shops around the borough.

Alison Butler: seeking to stop any new fast food shops around Croydon – apart from the ones the council funds

In an email sent to her 38 Labour councillor colleagues, seen by Inside Croydon, Butler, the council cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, has appealed for help in getting the planning inspector to back a council proposal to block any new fried chicken shops or other fast food joints from opening in the borough.

Croydon’s Local Plan, a document that has already been four years in the drafting and re-drafting, has undergone a public hearing and review by the government planning inspectorate.

The Local Plan is now out for yet another round of public consultation – and Butler wants Labour councillors to get residents in their wards to influence the final outcome.

Butler’s proposed ban on fast food shops was described to the planning inspector as “Draconian” by representatives of the fast-food industry. The inspector appears to have found their argument persuasive, or perhaps has concluded that the council is inconsistent.

Because while Butler wants a fast food shop ban, her council has loaned £3million to Boozepark to open more than two dozen food outlets next to East Croydon Station. And this year the council helped set-up a “pop-up” fish and chip shop (offering only one kind of fish, but chips with everything) as part of its £1.2million gentrification imposed on Surrey Street.

In her email to councillors, Butler, who represents Bensham Manor ward, writes, “I know this is an issue that frequently has come up for discussion in Thornton Heath (and other areas) so I would like local residents who are concerned to respond.”

In a long, rambling and somewhat patronising email (“Hope this makes sense and sorry this email is a bit long and complicated – but that’s the planning system!”), Butler advises her fellow councillors: “As in many planning issues the representations do need to have some bite (evidence) to it otherwise the inspector may just dismiss it as he will only be interested in evidence and not the volume of representations on the subject.”

Would you like chips with that?

Butler then offers what she thinks is a form of words which her councillors should get their residents to use when lodging an objection to the inspector’s proposal for a more relaxed approach to planning restrictions.

Butler’s draft includes this passage: “Public Health England say that of particular concern are hot food takeaways, which tend to sell food that is high in fat and salt, and low in fibre, fruit and vegetables. They note that there is a growing body of evidence on the association between exposure to fast food outlets and obesity. Croydon has above average levels of hot food takeaways…

“Public Health England say that there are three broad approaches to address the proliferation of hot food takeaways…” and that these include using “the planning system to address the proliferation.”

Butler then states that if the restrictions she and the council suggested for takeways is “watered down” as suggested by the government inspector, “then the overall ability to address the social (health) effects of hot food takeaways in Croydon will be significantly reduced”.

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16 Responses to Chicken shops have had their chips if Butler gets her way

  1. What does Alison Butler know about obesity? #justasking

  2. Perhaps she should look at addressing the socio economic and mental health issues associated with living in high rise flats. That coupled with additional air pollution from road vehicles accessing Westfield in an area already with significant air pollution are far more likely to adversely affect health than a few more fast food takeaways.

  3. Peter Bell says:

    I am just pleased one of our councillors is trying to solve the rat problem (not by cooking them and passing them off as fried chicken) but by reducing the number of outlets of fast food in the borough with all that their associated rubbish entails. I don’t think it is within our councillor’s remit to sort out personal obesity problems – but reducing the waste from fast food outlets would greatly help the appearance of Croydon central after 1800 hrs. And also the cleaning up bill.

    Why do we need so many ?? How about more bacon roll emporia. I would go for that.

    • Quite agree, Peter. But why, then, at the same time is our council investing in the food retailing business?

      • janetdesilva says:

        Possibly because the eateries in Boxpark are a bit nicer than those found on the local high streets. Better quality food, punters not throwing the empties on the floor, higher hygiene rating?

        Not all takeaway food is good or indeed bad but it would seem odd to defend streets lined end to end with chicken shops.

        • No one’s defending chicken shops.

          But unhealthy fast food is unhealthy fast food, however you package it up, or however much retailers overcharge for it.

          So when making the social healthcare case against fast food, loaning millions of public money to an outlet which sells a lot of fast food and booze is either hypocritical, or just stupid. You decide.

  4. Waltham Forest do not allow any new applications for Fast food take-aways (A5 in Planning terms) within 400 metres of a school. This is a way forward as these venues do tend to proliferate if they see good usage in existing premises. You only have to look at the chicken shops on Portland Road or by West Croydon station after school to see the kids queueing up for £2 chicken & chips to see he attraction to those after a fast buck..
    The obesity crisis is a real threat to the nation & nhs and will only get worse, this is why Croydon has tried through it’s largely ineffective “Heart Town” initiative to tackle it, by using the planning system is a start and one worth trying.

  5. libertygal72 says:

    Why does Croydon attract so many chicken shops? What needs to be done to attract alternatives?

    • It’s a good question, and one that can be applied also to bookmakers’ and charity shops.

      • Nick Davies says:

        It seems to be a good measure of the prosperity of an area. Chicken shops and bookies and Iceland one side of the tracks, coffee shops and fancy delis and Waitrose the other.

      • It should be noted that the proliferation of betting shops was the possibly unintended consequence of the last Labour government’s deregulation of the gambling laws and the removal of the demand test.
        They also deregulated the liquor licensing laws which led to an increase in the number of outlets that are permitted to sell alcohol. This is why you can now buy yourself a 2 litre bottle of cider for £3.50, with more units of alcohol than is recommended than an adult should consume in a week, at any retail outlet or petrol station or you could stop off on the M40 for a pint at Wetherspoon’s.
        The intention of the then Blair government was to allow market forces decide the right amount of operators for any locality.
        Now one of the only mechanisms available to a Council to control numbers of betting shops, pubs, take always, pay day loans etc is via the planning system and a properly written Local Plan.
        However, those with deeper pockets than local residents and trade organisations such as BACTA and the Fast Food Industry can afford barristers to challenge the legality or wording of policies in target areas.

  6. nigestair says:

    I am no free-marketeer, but I do count myself as a liberal. I consider this proposed ban would be an illiberal move. Who is it for anyone else, whether they are a councillor or anyone else, to restrict another adult’s food choices? Yes, I am sure fried chicken isn’t healthy (but not particularly unhealthy either if you eat it only once in a while), but surely their diet is for members of the public to decide, not their local council.

    • So where do you stand, then, Nigel, on the illiberal social health care measures taken in the past 50 years on smoking? That was an “adult choice”, which has been rendered unacceptable, with the radical reduction in the number of peope smoking, and therefore dying as a consequence.
      There are numerous examples of interventions being applied based on solid, scientific evidence. Truth is, our local planning authorities do not have sufficient discretion to apply controls that can mould or moderate the use of high street premises, nor impose restrictions on profit-making businesses from exploiting their locations near to schools.

      • nigestair says:

        The distinction I make is whether a freedom people enjoy is capable of infringing others’ rights. If I eat an unhealthy diet, it is unlikely to harm the health of anyone else, or otherwise affect any of their fundamental rights. However, in the case of smoking (the example you mentioned), I am in favour of the government having restricted the places you can smoke as it would be astonishing if the same smoke that is damaging to the health of the smoker didn’t also damage the health of people in their vicinity. However, if those people are smoking in a place where they were unlikely to affect others, then they should be able to without hindrance.

  7. Lewis White says:

    Will Darwinism eventually weed out the chicken shop teenagers, when their young arteries become blocked with fat even before they become parents, and they all drop down dead?

    While waiting for a bus outside my local chicken shop, and see the constant stream of school pupils coming and going, I worry about the future health of the nation, and wonder where the young people get their money from for their after school bucket of finger-lickin’ industrial chick’n. Presumably, Mum and Dad.

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