Hackney council submit groundbreaking proposal to control number of betting shops on high streets
PUBLISHED: 13:16 26 February 2014 | UPDATED: 13:16 26 February 2014
A ground-breaking proposal to regulate the number of betting shops on high streets has been put before the government after five years of campaigning by Hackney Council.
It has garnered the support of 31 other London boroughs and 35 authorities outside the capital. An application has now been submitted to Parliament asking for the power to subject the gambling venues to new planning restrictions.
Bookies would then be assigned a unique classification – as is the case with nightclubs and casinos – allowing councillors and residents to have a say over every betting shop application, which they currently have no power to do.
Under existing legislation, they are classified as A2 premises – the same category as financial and professional services – which means they can be opened in former banks, estate agencies or employment agencies, as well as pubs and eateries, without planning permission.
In May, government deregulation is also expected to remove the need to apply for permission to take over an even wider range of premises.
Hackney Mayor, Jules Pipe, said: “Something needs to be done to stop betting shops cynically targeting deprived communities. Many act 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.
“Our latest campaign is not about banning betting shops. We acknowledge responsible and well-run businesses have a right to trade, but we need the tools so we can strike the right balance.
“The government says it supports localism and the ideal of local people shaping their communities. Hackney is therefore asking for change on betting shops to allow this.”
Hackney Council has been working on the plan to crack down on gambling establishments for more than five years under the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA) – legislation which allows authorities to propose statutory powers to solve problems in their communities.
The council’s first submission was rejected in 2007 but now has cross-party support from 66 other authorities.
There are about 65 betting shops in Hackney with eight in Mare Street alone.