Waltham Forest Council has defended its record on tackling obesity after it emerged more than half of people living in the borough are overweight or obese.

Figures released by Public Health England (PHE) last week revealed that 54.6 per cent of adults have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over.

The authority says it has a wide range of initiatives aimed at encouraging residents to eat healthily, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight.

“While the figures show our residents are below both the national and London averages, we are not complacent about obesity and see it as a key public health issue,” Councillor Ahsan Khan, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said.

The national average for overweight and obese adults is 64 per cent of the population, while London’s average is 57 per cent.

Director of health and wellbeing at PHE, Professor Kevin Fenton, said local authorities are “ideally placed” to tackle weight issues.

The council has invested heavily in a parks improvement programme which includes several new outdoor gyms, as well as improving leisure facilities and offering free swimming for under-18s and over-60s, according to Cllr Khan.

He added that the authority’s hot food takeaway policy has achieved “considerable success” in refusing planning permission to new takeaways near schools.

More than 80 per cent of such applications have been rejected in the last four years.

“Ultimately we recognise our role in confronting this problem and the need to combat it in a variety of ways,” Cllr Khan said.