Andrew Bull, who graduated from the Urban and Regional Planning MA course in 2015, has been announced as one of the five finalists for The Royal Town Planning Institute’s Awards for Research Excellence in the Student Award category.

The largest planning institute in Europe shortlisted Andrew’s dissertation entitled ‘Planning policy to address the association between hot food takeaways and childhood obesity’.

When developing the paper, Andrew was inspired by his local planning authority, Medway Council, who adopted a planning policy to address the association between hot food takeaways and childhood obesity. Such policies typically define zones to regulate the location or operating hours of new takeaways in close proximity to schools.

The Urban and Regional Planning graduate went on to test the approach. “I was keen to demonstrate the value of advanced spatial analysis in developing sound planning policy,” he explained.

The research comprised the analysis of access to takeaways among pupils within an area of North Kent as well as in-depth interviews with officers. The policy was found to be compromised by the exemption of designated shopping centres, having demonstrated the level of access to shopping centres and existing takeaways at lunchtime and en route home from school.

Andrew, who is currently developing his professional career by working towards Chartered Town Planner status, said: “I’m so pleased to have been recognised for my hard work. It has capped an excellent postgraduate experience at the University of Westminster.”

He continued: “My tutor encouraged me to broaden the scope of the research by incorporating qualitative methods. This provided an opportunity to understand the policy in more detail and to find out how it was being implemented. The findings have addressed a gap in the literature and constitute the first analysis of its kind. Given the similarity among policies adopted across England, the findings and the policy recommendations may also apply to other areas.”

Duncan Bowie, Course Leader for the Urban and Regional Planning MA course, said: “Andrew's dissertation research was innovative. It dealt with an important topical issue - the role of planning in health policy specifically in terms of the location of fast food shops in relation to travel to school routes, while using advanced spatial analysis techniques to analyse a large dataset. The research was well presented and the conclusions were well argued. It used a methodological approach which could be widely replicated and could assist local planning authorities in using their planning powers to ensure that fast food shops are not permitted in inappropriate locations."

The winner of the RTPI Awards for Research Excellence will be announced on 7 September during the 2016 UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference at Cardiff University.

Learn more about the Urban and Regional Planning MA course in the University of Westminster’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

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