A new action plan to combat an “obesity epidemic” in Bexley has moved forward as figures reveal that 30 per cent of reception-age kids are overweight.

Councillors last night scrutinised proposals to crack down on obesity in the borough through a new ‘prevention strategy’.

It comes as three in 10 pupils in Bexley’s reception classes at school are now overweight or obese, a figure that is rising.

Joanne Ferry, senior public health specialist, said: “Bexley is facing an epidemic in obesity much like the rest of London.

“We have the second worst rates for excess weight in London for reception-age children.

“For those reception-age children three in 10 are overweight or obese, and by adults 60 per cent are overweight or obese.

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“The overarching aim is to reduce excess weight in the borough and reduce the levels of overweight and obesity in children and adults.

“The target is a two per cent reduction over five years, I appreciate that doesn’t sound ambitious, but if you look at the data we are on an upward trajectory so any reduction is good.”

One way being touted in the new action plan is to limit fast food outlets within 400m from schools, which is part of Sadiq Khan’s London Plan.

Councillors said there are planning issues with that idea – with Cllr John Davey saying demand should be tackled, rather than the number of outlets.

He said: “There is so many fast food outlets because there is demand. The thing to do is to tackle the demand, to educate people and change people’s culture. One will follow the other.”

Cllr Esther Amaning also said Bexley needs a culture change, calling for improvements to be made quicker than five years.

She said: “Can we expedite these plans? Two per cent over five years is slow going.

“Perhaps it’s a whole culture change. Sometimes when I help at the foodbank, some of the food on offer is making the people fatter – far more than healthy options. Across the board, we have to sustain this quicker.”

The council plans to encourage healthier lifestyles and schools, including steps to improve mental health and well-being.

Other proposals are to improve accessibility to fresh food and veg, especially in more deprived wards, and improving parks.

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“One of the challenges is the normalisation of overweight and obesity,” Ms Ferry said.

“We are not talking about people being morbidly obese here, this is six in 10 of adults. It affects large parts of the community.

“We want to promote individuals making healthy changes. It’s not about telling people what to do and how to do it, it’s about encouraging people to make little changes that we know are hard but healthy.”

The strategy’s final draft will be signed off later this month then opened up to the public in a consultation.