I propose to take Questions Nos. 300 and 301 together.
The recently published National Planning Framework recognises the strong link between our health and environment and includes a National Policy Objective to support the objectives of public health policy, including Healthy Ireland and the National Physical Activity Plan, through integrating such policies, where appropriate and at the applicable scale, with planning policy.
In addition, my Department published statutory guidelines for planning authorities in June 2013 on Local Area Plans (LAPs) under Section 28 of the Planning Act 2000 (as amended). Section 5 of these Guidelines offers advice as regards the structure and content of local area plans and sets out a range of policies that can be put in place to promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns for local communities.
- promoting walking and cycling as modes of transport,
- accessibility to public open spaces, recreational and sports facilities,
- proximity of new development to sustainable travel modes,
- provision of play areas, and
- careful consideration of the appropriateness of the location of fast-food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.
A practical effect of these Guidelines with regard to fast-food outlets is that consideration can be given to the appropriateness of their location in the vicinity of schools and parks, for example in newly developing areas, while at the same time taking into account wider land use considerations.
However, with regard to the many schools located in or near town centres, restriction of fast-food outlets in these kinds of situations needs to be carefully considered on a case by case basis, in view of the mix of existing uses typically found in such central urban areas.
In addition, planning policy with regard to the location of fast-food outlets needs to be considered also within the wider policy context of practical steps that planning authorities and other public bodies can take to more widely promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns, for example, by enhancing the scope for activities such as walking, cycling and sports and active leisure pursuits and their associated facilities.
In relation to the number of local authorities that have a policy as referenced in the question, the relevant section of the Guidelines sets out a methodology to be considered and applied at local level rather than a pre-determined policy position. Therefore, tracking and collation of specific data in relation to the existence and nature of the policies adopted in LAPs by individual local authorities in line with the Guidelines, and auditing of such, is not undertaken by my Department.
It should also be noted that my Department participates in the cross-Departmental working group, established by the Minister for Health, to oversee implementation of the National Obesity Policy and Action Plan.