Councillors vote in favour of Wicklow 'No Fry Zone'

Campaigners say it is a important step towards tackling childhood obesity

Wicklow Councillors have voted in favour of imposing specific distances between fast food restaurants and children's facilities.

The 'No Fry Zone' creates a 400 metre exclusion zone around schools and playgrounds and was backed by 18 votes to 12 at a recent Council meeting.

The objective was originally written into the Wicklow County Council's draft development plan last November, but the Chief Executive Bryan Doyle had called for the removal of the specified distance ban in favour of rulings on a case by case basis.

In a statement sent to Newstalk.com, a spokesperson for Bryan Doyle explained his reasons for this.

It referenced comments received on the matter from the Minister for the Environment, which indicated that the Council should reconsider the wording to avoid a specific distance.

He said that schools and playgrounds tend to be located within 400 metres of mixed use commercial zones, such as neighbourhood centres, so the objective would have "significant implications" for the development of new food outlets.

He took the example of Bray and said that the objective in its current form "would mean that no new fast food outlets or takeaways would be permitted at locations such as Bray Seafront, Vevay Road neighbourhood centre, and the Boghall Road neighbourhood centre".

However, Councillors from Greystones Municipal District successfully rallied enough support form their colleagues across the county to support the idea.

Chairman of the group 'No Fry Zones 4 Kids' Philip Moyles said he was delighted that four years of work had paid off.

“The distance of 400 metres will actually make a difference to obesity levels, based on the studies carried out in this area."

“We are utterly delighted that the majority of Wicklow Councillors have voted in favour," he said.

"The wording of the objective is specific, with a clearly defined distance that must be adhered to, which makes this a meaningful objective.”

The campaign group pursued the changes to the County Development Plan (CDP) based on planning decisions by Wicklow County Council.

On two occasions planning permission was granted for a McDonald's restaurant to be located 30 metres from a 1,800-student education campus at Blacklion in Greystones.

Campaigners said they wanted to ensure that parents wouldn't have to face unending battles to block future attempts by fast food companies to set up near schools, and that could be achieved by a change to the CDP.

“We think it is now clear that no fry zones are on the national agenda, and that they are an inevitable part of a suite of measures to combat obesity," Moyles added.

“It’s important to note that no fry zones will not solve obesity on their own, but this is one important step which is preventative in nature and will make a difference over time.”

The proposed change to the County Development Plan will soon go out to public consultation. The group says it will continue to campaign to ensure that the maximum number of supportive submissions are made as part of that process.