FAST food takeaways could be banned from opening outside schools in a bid to tackle childhood obesity in Bolton.

Town hall chiefs have launched a consultation on proposals to introduce a 400 metre “exclusion zone” around the borough’s secondary schools.

This would mean planning chiefs could stop new takeaways, such as chip shops, pizza parlours and kebab houses, from opening because they could be “harmful to public health”.

Health bosses have described the move as an “important step” in improving people’s lifestyles in Bolton.

The policy would not affect existing outlets, and permission could still be granted if a new takeaway fulfilled certain criteria — such as not opening before 6pm.

The plan is aimed at tackling the borough’s obesity problem, with one in five Bolton children currently classed as obese — one of the highest in the country.

Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris approved the plans for consultation.

He said: “It would place limits on new applications. We couldn’t ban anything that’s there now. If they’ve applied to only open after 6pm then we’d think about that.”

Headteachers stressed they were already working to address the town’s health issues.

Bob Flood, headteacher at Harper Green School in Farnworth, said: “We insist our students stay in school at lunchtime and we believe we offer a good variety of healthy food.

“The principle that we’re looking to address health issues with students is absolutely the correct one, because there is a link between what they’re eating and drinking and their development and performance.

“At the same time people are trying to develop their businesses and I understand that, so if there’s any way people can work together then that would be for the benefit of everybody, but our key focus has to be the development of the young person.”

Tough economic times and today’s “PlayStation culture” are being blamed for the high levels of childhood obesity, although schools say they are playing their part in educating children.

Dr Stephen Liversedge, clinical director for primary care and health Improvement at Bolton CCG, said: "We welcome this policy from Bolton Council to tackle childhood obesity.

“Being overweight in childhood increases the likelihood of being an overweight adult, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and many cancers.

“Food from takeaways is often unhealthy and high in fat, salt, sugar and calories.

“We all need to work closely to improve people's lifestyles and the council's action to reduce the number takeaways near schools is an important step to achieve this.”

The consultation runs until July 19 and people can post their views to the planning strategy team at Bolton Town Hall, or email