COUNCIL health bosses have defended their promise to use planning rules to tackle the influx of take-aways across their borough.

Shock new data released last week revealed Blackburn with Darwen has the highest proportion of fast food ‘to go’ outlets in England.

Dominic Harrison, the borough’s public health director said in response: “We’ve taken steps to amend the planning process to help us restrict applications where necessary,”

Figures from Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research revealed that 38 per cent of all food retail outlets in Blackburn with Darwen sell high-calorie fast food, against a national average of 26 per cent.

The borough has 236 takeaways an increase of 24 per cent since 2014, one for every 625 people.

Data from Public Health England shows that 68.6 per cent of adults in the borough are classified as either overweight or obese against a national average of 64.8.

At last week’s Blackburn with Darwen Council Forum Conservative planning spokeswoman Cllr Jacqui Slater questioned whether Mr Harrison’s promise would be effective.

She said: “Former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Browne and I have banged on about this for years at planning committee for years but nothing has happened.

“I don’t believe they can use the rules to do this. I’ve seen takeways yards apart approved within a month.

“I will be watching very carefully to see if they are true to their word.

Cllr Brian Taylor, the borough’s assistant executive member for health, said: “We’ve taken steps to amend the planning process to help us restrict applications where necessary.

“Policy 33 of the new Local Plan Part Two sets out Blackburn with Darwen’s approach to managing development to influence these issues.

“The policy requires developers of hot food takeaways to demonstrate how public health issues have been taken into account in formulating the development proposal, and how any impacts are to be mitigated.

“We’ve refused five applications since the ‘Local Plan Part Two’ was introduced in December 2015.

“ Our planning guidance has to reflect national rules.”

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