Victory for Hackney over betting shops
Gambling firms will now find it harder to open new betting shops after a change in planning law to give councils a greater say on applications.
Following a public consultation on planning last year, government has now amended the General Permitted Development Order to give bookies their own planning use class.
Previously they were categorised as A2 which meant that a gambling firm could take over a range of businesses, such as a shop, bank, café, pub or takeaway, and convert them into a bookies without needing planning permission. This left councils powerless to intervene and led to a proliferation of betting shops across Hackney, with clustering in certain areas, despite the majority of residents not wanting them. There are currently 58, with eight in Mare Street alone.
Now that they have their own use class, any company wanting to set up a new betting shop must apply for planning permission. This means their application may come before the Council’s Planning Committee if there is objection from local residents, therefore giving committee members the opportunity to refuse it. The only exception is if the property is already a betting shop. In this case the gambling firm wanting to take it over would not need to apply for planning permission.
Hackney Council has lobbied successive governments over the past eight years calling for councils to have more powers over betting shops.
In February last year it submitted a proposal to government under the Sustainable Communities Act to give betting shops their own planning class. The submission received cross-party support from boroughs across London and 35 councils outside the capital. Hackney Council also wrote to the then Planning Minister Nick Boles asking for the change, set up an online petition to the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, and advised residents on how to respond to the Government’s planning consultation last summer.
This change represents a real victory for Hackney and local government as a whole, and demonstrates what councils and residents can achieve when they unite for a cause.
“Hackney Council, along with local authorities across the country, has long been calling on government to give us the tools to better tackle the blight of bookies in our high streets. At last ministers have listened to the overwhelming weight of public and council opinion against the betting shop free-for-all.
“Our campaigning has never been about banning betting shops, and these changes don’t mean we can now close down existing betting shops. However, they do mean we have a say on future proposals to turn yet another shop, bank or pub into a bookies, and decisions can be based on what best suits our high streets and communities, rather than the profits of gambling firms.