South Tyneside has been named in the top five for the highest number of takeaways and fast food outlets.
New figures, from the Office from the National Statistics and collated by the BBC, come after South Tyneside was named as having one of the highest levels of obesity among primary school pupils in England.
The number of takeaways in the area increased by more than two-thirds in the past eight years, with 55 new eateries opening.
There are now more pizza places, fried-chicken shops and other fast food outlets in South Tyneside per 100,000 of the population than in Manchester, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “Health is one of our key priorities and managing the prevalence of fast food outlets is an important factor in promoting healthier living and reducing the number of overweight or obese residents.
“That is why we adopted new planning guidance last year which seeks to refuse planning permission for takeaways in wards where the level of obesity for Year 6 pupils is more than 10%.
“For the first time this summer, the council used this new guidance to reject a planning application for a takeaway in South Shields town centre, citing childhood obesity levels in the area as one of the grounds for refusal.
“Making healthy choices is much harder for people if there is a proliferation of hot food takeaways where they live.
“We also work with local food businesses to offer advice and support around nutrition, healthier cooking methods and labelling.
“As part of our Childhood Obesity Strategy we provide training to staff working with families who may be overweight, and work to raise awareness of the national Change4Life programme within local children’s services to further support families to make healthy lifestyle choices. This includes making sure families have information about the sugar content in food.
“Furthermore, every single child in South Tyneside now attends a ‘healthy school’, where health and wellbeing is promoted and children are encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Topping the list is Westminster, closely followed by Blackpool and Glasgow City, with South Tyneside coming in fourth.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Local authorities have a range of powers to create healthier environments, including planning policies to limit the opening of additional fast food outlets close to schools and in areas of over-concentration.
“However, we know these decisions are not always easy for councils, which is why we recently announced our Trailblazer programme to support them to use their powers to best effect.”
Coun Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community and wellbeing board, said: “We urgently need to take action to tackle child obesity and councils are playing their part, but need more planning powers to help tackle this epidemic, which has made the UK the most obese nation in western Europe.
“Councils appreciate that a flourishing hospitality sector in our towns and cities is good for local economies and where they have introduced restrictions on takeaways are working with businesses to help create healthier menus for their customers.”