High street planning reform must result in betting shop change
The Chancellor’s Budget announcement on reforming the high street planning system must result in a meaningful change on betting shops, Hackney Council is urging.
The document’s section on ‘Infrastructure and planning’ states there will be a “consultation on creating a much wider ‘retail’ use class, excluding betting shops and payday loan shops.”
Earlier this year Hackney Council, with the cross-party support of councils across London and a further 35 authorities outside the capital, submitted a new proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act to give betting shops their own use class, as with nightclubs and casinos.
Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe also wrote to Planning Minister Nick Boles calling for the change, and an online petition has been launched encouraging the public to show their support.
The moves follow widespread concern about the proliferation and clustering of betting shops in high streets over the past few years, and the frustration felt by councils and residents that current planning guidance allows betting shops to open in a wide range of premises without needing planning permission.
We will be following this issue closely as more detail emerges over the coming weeks. If this consultation opens the door for councils to be given more control over betting shops then that’s good news. However, if the Budget’s general tone of planning liberalisation seeks to make it even easier for betting shops to open this would be something we will vehemently oppose.
“For too many years councils have been left powerless to stop betting shops blighting their high streets, much to the frustration of our residents. Gambling firms often cynically target deprived communities, acting like financial vampires feeding off vulnerable people, fuelling addictions and other problems and adding to the difficulties of already hard-pressed families.
“They’re also sapping the vibrancy and variety from our high streets, and squeeze out potential local enterprises which could use the premises for something positive and constructive.
“We urge government to ensure the outcome of its consultation on high street planning reform reflects the overwhelming weight of public and council opinion and hopefully puts an end to the current betting shop free-for-all.
“In the meantime we will carry on campaigning for a change on betting shop regulation and I’d urge people to keep signing our petition. The more signatures we have the better we can make our case for change and the stronger we can fight the powerful lobby groups which will argue councils and residents should have even less of a say over betting shops.
There are about 65 betting shops in Hackney, with eight in one street alone.
Under existing guidelines betting shops are classed as A2 - ‘financial and professional services’, meaning they can open up without planning permission in premises which previously housed such a venture, for example a bank, estate agent or employment agency. Planning rules also state an A2 class can open without permission in an existing A3, A4 and A5 premises, expanding the field further to include pubs, restaurants, cafes and hot food takeaways.
Re-classifying bookies would mean residents and councillors could have a say over every application, and that the potential impact a new betting shop may have on an area would become a key factor on whether or not it gets approved.
For more information on Hackney’s submission and the online petition, visit www.hackney.gov/beatthebookies.