Plan for new Greggs bakery sparks obesity fears

A Greggs store in the UK
A Greggs store in the UK

A new Greggs bakery could open on Tyneside — despite major fears over high levels of obesity at nearby schools.

Families, councillors, and North Tyneside’s public health boss have all urged planning chiefs to reject Greggs’ bid to move into the Collingwood Centre, North Shields, at a site where KFC was denied permission to open a drive-through restaurant earlier this year.

The vacant unit is just 400m from John Spence High School and also near two other schools, in a ward that has one of the highest rates of very overweight and obese children in North Tyneside.

However, North Tyneside Council’s planning committee has been advised to approve the proposal at a hearing next Tuesday.

Local authority planning officers have argued that the key difference between KFC and Greggs is that the latter is not primarily a hot food takeaway – instead being classified as a shop and cafe – and is therefore an acceptable addition to the Collingwood Centre, which already has a Morrisons, a Subway, and a Domino’s Pizza.

The bakery has stated that only eight per cent of its takeaway sales are from hot food – as pasties and sausage rolls are not sold hot, but are “merely baked throughout the day and sold to the customer at whatever temperature they have cooled to from our counters”.

Wendy Burke, the borough’s director of public health, said: “Two thirds of adults and one third of 10-11 year olds adults in the borough are either overweight or obese.

“A key priority both nationally and locally is to encourage healthy eating. This is incredibly difficult to do if we continue to allow developments that promote the sale of food high in fat, calories and salt within our commercial centres and in the immediate vicinity of our local schools and leisure centres, as an increasing proportion of people consume food outside the home.”

She added that a new Greggs would make it easy for youngsters to buy “cheap, highly calorific food not only for breakfast, but also for lunch and tea”.

A petition with 73 signatures has been submitted against the development, citing concerns over childhood obesity, cooking smells, loss of residential amenity, vehicle noise, loss of visual amenity, litter and vermin problems. A further 33 letters of objection have also been sent to the council.

Coun Peter Earley, cabinet member for children, young people and skills, said in his objection that the a Greggs would be “detrimental to health and wellbeing of children and young people who attend nearby schools and would be situated in an area where there is already a significant issue with rising levels of childhood obesity”.

But planning officers have said that the Greggs plan would be “acceptable” for the empty unit, which was formerly the Fat Butcher.

A report to the planning committee states: “The drive-through restaurant would have served mostly hot, which would be made hot when ordered for that specific customer. In regards to the application currently being assessed, it is apparent that the food being served would not be cooked for the specific customer but would be mostly served at the temperature to which it had cooled during the day.”

Greggs told the council: “The primary use of this property is proposed as a take-away selling bakery products that are ‘baked off’ throughout the day alongside other goods such as sandwiches, cakes and drinks.

“Hot food sales amount to eight per cent of our overall take away offer, which primarily is our breakfast offer; some shops do have a Nuttalls hot sandwich unit, which cooks hot sandwiches to order, but this is not being provided in this particular shop. ”

Daniel Holland , Local Democracy Reporting Service