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Judge bans fast food outlet near school

A controversial planning permission which allowed a fast food takeaway to be set up near a school with a "healthy eating" policy was quashed by the High Court today.

A judge declared that Tower Hamlets council in east London had "acted unlawfully" when it gave the go-ahead for "Fried & Fabulous" to open for business at 375 Cable Street, Shadwell, close to Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School.

The judge said councillors had voted in favour of permission after being wrongly directed that they could not take account of the proximity of the local secondary school because it was not "a material planning consideration".

The council will now have to reconsider any further planning application for a takeaway at the site in light of today's ruling.

Councillor Peter Golds, leader of the council's Conservative group, said later: "This is a very important High Court decision.

"It clarifies the law and sets a benchmark that will enable local authorities everywhere to take account of health and well-being - particularly of schoolchildren - as factors in determining planning applications."

Both the school, which has 1,700 pupils, and many local residents objected to the change of use of a former grocery store into a takeaway.

The school's executive head, Catherine Myers, wrote a letter describing how the establishment was achieving outstanding examination results by educating "the whole person".

Its healthy eating policy meant "no chips, fatty foods, sweets, fizzy drinks etc are sold on the premises".

Ms Myers said the governors and student council and their neighbours "objected strongly" and felt "undermined by an outlet like Fried & Fabulous setting up".

She said: "Approximately 500 students remain in school at the end of the day to take extra classes and already several takeaway shops quite cynically open up specifically to make a profit from selling cheap junk food to vulnerable teenagers."

Today the planning permission - granted in April following a 5-1 vote in favour, with one abstention - was quashed by Mr Justice Cranston, sitting in London.

The judge said that when the application for a hot-food takeaway was granted by the council's development committee in April, an officer's report specifically advised council members that the proximity of the proposed fast-food outlet to the school could not be a "material planning consideration".

Richard Harwood, appearing for the council, had argued that at the committee meeting itself the nearness of the school had in fact been treated as a relevant issue and taken into account.

Rejecting the submission, the judge said the officer's report was "a clear direction to the effect that the points about proximity could not be given any weight at all."

The judge added: "Mr Harwood has not persuaded me that, in reaching its decision, the committee did not follow the officer's advice."

There were indications that committee members who had voted in favour of the takeaway would have reached a different decision "if they had been properly directed".

The judge said: "I declare the council has acted unlawfully and I quash the grant of planning permission."

The judge said the planning application, made by Mr T Miah, would have to be reconsidered by the council.

The ruling was a victory for Edward Copeland, who lives opposite the proposed takeaway and brought today's successful legal challenge.

His lawyers pointed to the potential adverse impact of Fried & Fabulous on Bishop Challoner's attempt to encourage healthy eating among its pupils.

The Government now recommended that fast food shops should not be near schools, said his counsel David Wolfe.

The judge was told that the nearby borough of Waltham Forest council had already adopted a policy for managing the proliferation of fast food outlets, especially near parks and schools, in order to combat their known adverse impact on community health.