Revealed: The Nationwide Surge in Fast-food Restaurants within a Five-minute Walk of Primary and Secondary Schools

fast foodAccording to our new geospatial research, thousands of fish and chip restaurants, burger joints and kebab shops have sprung up within a five-minute walk of primary and secondary schools across Britain, despite Government promises of a crackdown in the fight against child obesity.

Nationally, the number of fast-food restaurants within a five-minute walk of a primary or secondary school rose from 9,700 in 2009 to 15,327 in 2016 — a rise of 58%.

The biggest rise in the number of junk food restaurants located within a five-minute walk from a primary or secondary school was in London, increasing from 1,831 to 3,458 between 2009 and 2016 — up 89%. There were also substantial rises in Scotland (59%), the North West of England (57%) and West Midlands (55%) over the same period.

Out of the eleven Government regions across mainland Britain, all recorded double-digit increases in the number of fast food outlets within a five-minute walk from primary and secondary schools between 2009-2016.

Our original findings were based on analysis of annual data beginning in 2009 released by the Ordnance Survey which details the location of all fast food takeaway outlets and fish and chips businesses in the Britain. Our team then matched these against the location of all state education primary and secondary schools whose front gates are within a five-minute walk away by road, assuming the walking pace is around 3mph (deemed as the ‘average’ walking pace).

Number of takeaways within a 5 minute walk of primary and secondary schools and the percentage change from 2015 to 2016

Number of takeaways within a 5 minute walk of primary and secondary schools and the percentage change from 2015 to 2016

While previous studies have looked at the density of fast-food outlets per population or the location of schools to fast-food joints in specific pockets of the UK, this study by our experts is the first national analysis.

In 2014, Public Health England, the government’s public health quango, brought out tough new guidance for councils, urging planners to refuse permission for burger bars, chip shops and pizza parlours within five minutes’ walking distance of schools. Some councils use a 400-metre exclusion zone, which is equivalent to five minutes’ walk, while a number of London boroughs have brought in bans on takeaways near schools.

Our research would also indicate that there are also almost 500 more fast food restaurants within a five-minute walk of primary and secondary schools across Britain in 2016 compared to 2015.

The biggest annual rise in the number of restaurants located within a five-minute walk from a secondary school was in Scotland, which increased from 145 to 164 — up 13%. Other regions recording annual increases included East Midlands (9%), the South West (9%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (8%).

Out of the eleven Government regions across mainland Britain, only three —London, the South East and Wales — recorded modest year on year decreases in the number of fast food outlets within a five-minute walk from secondary schools, compared to 2015.

There have also been rises in junk food outlets within a five minute walk of a primary school in every region throughout Britain, with the biggest increase in Scotland, which saw 70 more fast-food outlets located within a five minute walk from a primary school in 2016 compared to 2015.  Almost a fifth of the national total are in London, where 3,140 fast-food restaurants are located within a five-minute walk of a primary school.

Two years ago TV chef Jamie Oliver demanded a clampdown on takeaway shops that tempt pupils away at lunchtime, telling the Times Educational Supplement, “You can’t have one arm of the government investing money in food education and school lunches, and then have another part allowing junk food, en masse, to be licensed and given permission to trade within a stone’s throw of a school on every corner.”

Mapmechanics is a British tech firm using digital mapping technology and geographical data to help some of the world’s leading retailers and businesses increase their efficiency and profitability. For more information about what we do, get in touch on 020 8568 7000 (UK) or 727 483-5562 (USA), or send us an email at allmapdata@caci.co.uk.