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

Brown, Heather and Xiang, Huasheng and Albani, Viviana and Goffe, Louis and Akhter, Nasima and Lake, Amelia and Sorrell, Stewart and Gibson, Emma and Wildman, John (2022) 'No new fast-food outlets allowed! Evaluating the effect of planning policy on the local food environment in the North East of England.', Social Science & Medicine, 306 .


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. 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 fast-food outlets near schools; 2) restricting new fast-food outlets if the density of existing outlets has surpassed a certain threshold of all retail outlets, 3) restricting new fast-food 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, proportion, and number 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 12.45 per 100,000 of the population and a 13.88% decrease in the proportion of fast-food outlets in Gateshead compared to other similar local authorities in the North East. There was a marginally significant reduction in the number of restaurants which became insignificant after controlling for population density. These results suggest that a multi-pronged planning approach significantly changed the proportion and density of fast-food outlets in the food environment in the short term (4 years).

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article under the CC BY license
Date accepted:09 June 2022
Date deposited:01 August 2022
Date of first online publication:13 June 2022
Date first made open access:01 August 2022

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