ENCOURAGING fresh food options in Bendigo could be a priority as the City of Greater Bendigo updates its planning scheme, but the council’s hands are tied in controlling the number of fast food outlets opening in the city.
A third Domino’s outlet will open in the coming months – at Kennington’s Strath Village – adding to the city’s five McDonald’s, five KFCs, six Subways, two Hungry Jacks, three Donut Kings, two Wendy’s and a Nandos.
The Kennington Domino’s will be a seven-minute drive from the Bendigo Domino’s.
A review of the City of Greater Bendigo’s planning scheme could be complete next year, and it will seek to integrate the council’s health and wellbeing plan.
Statutory planning manager Ross Douglas said there had been some recent movement towards incorporating health into planning at a state government level, but fast food outlets were not included.
“In August last year the state government included for the first time specific policy direction for health in all Victorian planning schemes,” he said.
“This was a great first step, but mainly it focuses on urban design requirements. It does not specifically address fast food outlets.”
The City of Greater Bendigo – and the wider Loddon-Campaspe region – rated poorly for health outcomes and obesity levels.
Bendigo also has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the state.
A 2014 study found that takeaway and fast food outlets accounted for 34 per cent of Bendigo’s retail food sector, and restaurants and pubs were a further 27 per cent.
Greengrocers made up 2 per cent.
Since then, a McDonald’s and a KFC have opened on Eaglehawk Road, one of which is opposite a primary school, and a Mexican drive-through has opened on Condon Street.
City of Greater Bendigo councillor Jennifer Alden, who campaigned heavily on food security before becoming a councillor, said she would always prefer to see fresh food options instead of fast food, but conceded council had limited power.
“Council has a role in putting in place settings to support healthy eating,” she said.
“There are difficulties in restricting land use, and council cannot dictate to a landowner – such as a shopping centre – what they desire in their mix of tenants.
“What we can do is investigate how we can integrate the council’s health and wellbeing plan into the municipal strategic statement.”
Cr Alden pointed to the Tecoma community’s battle against a McDonald’s opening in the town and how – despite overwhelming community opposition – the fast food outlet was still able to open as an example of the lack of power council’s have over controlling fast food retailers.