Frustration at Tamworth's 'fattest town' label
THE chair of Tamworth Borough Council's health committee has aired his "frustration" after the town came under the national spotlight for its high obesity levels this week.
Cllr Andrew James, chairman of the council's healthier and safer scrutiny committee, has hit out at media coverage over Tamworth being hailed the "UK's official fattest town".
Although figures show that one in three of the adult population in the town are obese, the statistics are "five years out of date", he said.
Television crews were witnessed in Tamworth earlier this week – 18 months after the Herald reported the same figures in a front-page story.
Speaking to the Herald, Cllr James said: "It's frustrating to see this, and also embarrassing.
"These figures are from 2006 to 2008. There's a lot that has been done in the town since then, and that's not being taken into account."
But Cllr James admitted that obesity was an "issue" – and cited one reason was that the town had too many takeaways.
He blamed this on the planning framework – and added that town planners could not refuse applications for takeaway restaurants on health reasons.
"The McDonald's in Wilnecote was refused by the borough council, but was approved by the planning inspector.
"Issues were raised on health concerns but it wasn't seen as a suitable planning ground for refusal," he said.
"I think there are too many takeaways in Tamworth, and I'm hoping the government will make it easier for planners to refuse applications on health grounds."
He also said that obesity would be "high on the agenda" of the healthier and safer scrutiny committee, who will next meet on March 7 – and added that the council have been trying to tackle the issue over the past few years.
Free swimming in Wilnecote High School, the installation of three free-to-use outdoor gyms across the town and subsidising SnowDome are just a few examples of the town's obesity fight back.
He also said that 11,000 adults out of 55,000 in the town were involved in active sport or exercise last year, an increase of 2,000 from 2009.
And chiefs from the South East Staffordshire & Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group, which will cover Tamworth from April, told the Herald that tackling obesity was one of their main priorities .
But Tamworth fat-fighter and Herald columnist Steve Miller says a lot more needs to be done.
He believes the high obesity levels are all down to attitude – and says that children need to be taught from an early age about the dangers of unhealthy eating.
He said: "This is all about people taking responsibility, and it could mean that councils have to look at decisions that may not be popular.
"If children are obese then I think schools should be able to raise the alarm and be straight-talking with parents, because it's down to the parents and how they are brought up."
Although he said the current media coverage was "unfair" due to the figures being out of date, Steve hit out at some of the council's decisions to try and combat the problem.
He said: "Investing money on outdoor gyms is a total waste of taxpayers' money. They may as well burn the money – no-one wants to use them. People should go for a walk instead."
And he said to combat the problem, the council needed to "drill the message" of "attitude, responsibility and action."
"If we are the fattest town then we need to do something about it."