In an article in today’s Telegraph, ironically part of a series on revitalising the High Street, newly appointed government minister Brandon Lewis claims junk food outlets are vital for the the High Street. Note not even good for the High Street, but vital.
In what way they are vital, he does not say, other than they create jobs, but then so does every small retailer on the High Street create jobs, the big difference between the two is that small retailers create real jobs, more jobs, not low-paid, de-skilled, part-time, zero-hours McJobs.
Maybe as he is new into his job, and maybe he missed it, maybe Brandon Lewis should look at government statistics published only last week by the Office of National Statistics on revitalising High Streets and well-being. Or maybe look at the work by Mary Portas. Or maybe look at work by New Economics Foundation.
- National Statistics Office: Belfast people most anxious in UK
- Bustling market towns hold the secret of happiness
- A sense of well-being
Junk food outlets in the High Street are a sign of deprivation, sign of a failing town centre.
Maybe he should visit Aldershot, a classic example of a failing town centre, and note the large number of junk food outlets.
Or maybe visit nearby Farnborough, a classic example of a failing town centre, where a c1720s former coaching inn and popular live music venue The Tumbledown Dick is earmarked for demolition for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, where a 98p Store has opened, adding to the existing Poundland, where planning has been applied for an Adult Amusement Arcade. All that is now needed is a few pay-day loan sharks.
Walking through both towns, other than for the purpose of how not to do it, he may then wish to ask himself the question: Are these towns he would wish to visit for pleasure?
He may also wish to inquire about the health statistics for these two towns, as recently published by Public Health England, far worse than the national average, and the national average is not good.
- 2,600 children in the Borough live in Poverty
- In Year 6 children, 18.5% are classified as obese which is significantly above the – national average
- GCSE attainment is significantly below the national average
- Violent crime is significantly above the national average
- Obese adults are above the national average
He may then wish to ask the question: Why was the planning committee that voted to destroy The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, told (incorrectly) to ignore health as a material planning matter?
National chains, especially chains like KFC and McDonald’s, blight town centres, destroy the sense of place, of community, of well-being.
Junk food chains drain money out of the local economy, they externalise costs of anti-social behaviour, litter, health. The health costs alone are now running at £2 billion a year.
Brandon Lewis comes out with the patronising ‘blame the parents’. Yes, the parents are to blame, but he is ignoring the massive advertising aimed at ill-educated parents.
No child grows up wanting to be fat, a social outcast.
Unbelievable nonsense from a government minister responsible for High Streets.
What next, an environment minister calling for killing of badgers, an environment minster calling activists ‘evil’ for opposing genetically modified crops. A Sec of State for Health fighting in the Courts to force closure of Lewisham A&E. A Secretary of State for (Un)Employment cutting benefits because it is good for the poor, imposing a Bedroom Tax because he is concerned about the homeless. Oops, yes, we have already had that.