A SOUTH Tyneside takeaway owner feels his trade is being unfairly blamed for a rise in obesity levels in the borough.
Mohammed Bughio is owner of the Dixy Chicken outlet in South Shields town centre’s Denmark Centre.
South Tyneside Council is planning to tighten planning rules to reduce the number of hot food takeaways in certain parts of the borough.
It comes amid fears of a link between rising obesity in the borough and an increasing number of fast-food outlets.
Mr Bughio has some sympathy with the council’s bid to reduce the number of such outlets around schools, but he feels that in town centre, the takeaways actually add to the vitality of the area and attract much-needed visitors.
I think there should be a rethink by the council to invest in the town centre rather than pointing the finger at takeaways for creating a problem.Mohammed Bughio, owner of Dixy Chicken in South Shields
He said: “Yes, I can see the thinking when it comes to schools.
“We should be encouraging healthy eating among our young people, and reducing the numbers of takeaways close to schools can make sense.
“We need to encourage young people to eat healthy food and stay fit.
“But I don’t see why those traders who can meet a need in a particular area should be penalised just because other retail shops are closing down.
“Look at Ocean Road and the restaurants and takeaways around there. They are attracting people into the town centre. Without them, the town would be dead at night.
“I think there should be a rethink by the council to invest in the town centre rather than pointing the finger at takeaways for creating a problem.
“Unlike Marks & Spencer, we are still here. We are investing in the town and providing a service to residents.
“High-street shops are closing everywhere. In many cases, it is the takeaways and restaurants which are keeping the town busy.
“We shouldn’t be the ones taking the blame.”
Mr Bughio, who recently had a plan blocked for his town centre premises to remain open until 5am at weekends, added: “Pointing the finger of blame at takeaways is not the answer.”
Boot camp trainer Joe Sexton, who runs the School of Weight Loss in South Shields, believes the council’s plan is only a partial solution.
He explained: “It is all right saying they are going to reduce the number of takeaways, but what is there to replace them?
“There are simply not the alternative healthy venues to fill the gap. All it might succeed in doing is make the existing hot-food venues even busier.
“It is a step in the right direction in one way, but the long-term answer should be investment in education to enable people to make better and healthier choices when it comes to what they eat.”