BLACKBURN with Darwen has the highest proportion of fast food takeaways in England, shock new data has revealed.

Some 38 per cent of all food retail outlets in the borough sell high-calorie fast food, against a national average of 26 per cent, according to figures from Cambridge University's Centre for Diet and Activity Research (Cedar).

In total, Blackburn with Darwen has 236 takeaways, an increase of 24 per cent since 2014, the equivalent to one shop for every 625 people.

The figures come as data from Public Health England shows that 68.6 per cent of adults in the borough are classified as either overweight or obese.

Nationally the figure is 64.8 per cent.

And the picture is not much better in other boroughs in East Lancashire, which all recorded figures above the national average.

In Hyndburn, 69.6 per cent of adults were classified as being obese or overweight, compared to 62 per cent of people in the Ribble Valley.

Campaigners and political leaders expressed their concern at the figures with some saying it is too easy for takeaways to get planning permission, while others said more needs to be done to raise awareness of healthy eating and exercise.

Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen, said they fully acknowledged people’s concerns and were working hard to 'strike the correct balance of fast food outlets in the borough'.

Mr Harrison said: "We’ve taken steps to amend the planning process to help us restrict applications where necessary, which led to one being refused last year. But our planning guidance has to reflect national rules as well.

"The increased availability of high-sugar and high-fat products targeted at children is also a growing challenge."

It was revealed Hyndburn has 126 takeaways in total, equating to 1.56 takeaways per 1,000 residents, which is a rise of 14 per cent since 2014, while Ribble Valley recorded the lowest number of takeaways with just 64, which amounts to are 1.12 takeaways per 1,000 residents with little growth since 2014.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire County Council described the figures as a 'concern'.

He said: "There is a strong link between where people live and their health.

"We are working closely with district councils to look at people's health needs and consider how planning can be used to help address environmental issues that affect people's health and wellbeing.

"We are also continuing to work closely with schools to address childhood obesity."

In Burnley, the number of obese or overweight residents was 69.2 per cent, while Pendle was 69 per cent, compared to 68.7 per cent in Rossendale.

East Lancashire's patients' voice champion Russ McLean described the figures as 'staggering'.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: "There is a 'clear link' between levels of deprivation and increased numbers of fast food outlets.

"The government has to recognise that there is a clear link between the two and do something about it.

"I'd also like to see tougher planning laws in place to stop so many takeaways being created."

Burnley MP Julie Cooper said more needed to be done to 'educate people about eating healthily and getting the right amount of exercise'.

Pendle's MP Andrew Stephenson said: "The rising number of takeaways in the area is a concern.

"It makes you wonder how so many can remain in business and I think there are far too many."

Elsewhere in East Lancashire, it was revealed Burnley has 156 takeaways in all, which is 1.79 takeaways per 1,000 residents, an increase of eight per cent within the last three years.

Pendle recorded 134 takeaways, an increase of six per cent within the last three years, and the equivalent of 1.5 takeaways per 1,000 residents.

Rossendale had 103 takeaways, 1.52 takeaways per 1,000 people, but the number of fast food outlets in the borough stayed around the same since 2014.