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Irish Heart Foundation 'dismayed' after appeal against fast food restaurant near school rejected

Two HSE public health doctors had also objected to the proposal.

An Bord Pleanála
An Bord Pleanála
Image: Google Maps

THE IRISH HEART Foundation has expressed its “dismay” after its appeal against planning permission granted for a fast food restaurant located 300 metres from a primary school was rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

In a statement today, Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation, which had appealed the decision said: “Seventy five per cent of Irish schools have at least one and 30% have at least five fast food outlets within a kilometre of their gates.

“It’s clear that many junk food restaurant chains deliberately cluster around schools to boost business.”

In March, Fingal County Council granted permission to an application to construct a two-storey restaurant with a drive through at Skerries Point shopping centre on Barnageeragh Road. 

The application was submitted last summer by the company Marbleside Ltd, and was met with fierce local opposition. 

Concerned Skerries residents banded together to form the “Drive Thru Committee” in June of last year to object against the proposed development. 

In its appeal decision letter, An Bord Pleanála said that “careful consideration was given to the appropriateness and location” of the fast food outlet to local schools.

Two HSE public health doctors had also objected to the proposal due to what they claimed would likely be the adverse impact of the fast food restaurant on the diet of the local population.

The board said it did not accept its own Inspector’s recommendation to refuse permission, adding that it considered “the nature of the closest school (a primary school), where the pupils are typically not permitted to leave during lunch break.”

Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation, however, said his group does not “accept that the proliferation of these restaurants close to locations where children live, learn and play is helping to drive our child obesity crisis and has to be urgently stopped.”

‘No-fry zones’

Macey has called on the government to introduce no-fry zone legislation that would prevent planning permission for all new hot food takeaways within one kilometre of primary and secondary schools.

Macey said the legislation is “a measure that is evidence-based, supported by the public, cost-free and, in association with other important measures, will help reduce overweight and obesity among our children.”

“So if policymakers won’t even do this, you’d have to ask what do they have the stomach for in protecting children’s health in the midst of Ireland’s obesity crisis.”

Locals had expressed concerns about the proximity of the planned restaurant to the local Educate Together National School, as well as the fact that it is adjacent to the Kelly’s Bay Montessori School, and the impact that this could have on children’s health.

Fundraisers were held last year in order to raise money to hire a professional engineer and planner to help people lodge evidence-based objections to the application. 

In total, local residents lodged 156 objections to the planning application at a cost of €20 per submission. The campaign had wide support from local TDs, senators and councillors.

Fingal came back to Marbleside requesting further information, and ultimately granted permission for the development in March. 

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

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