Mayor urges residents to voice fears over Hackney bookies

Big Debate: Betting Shops

Big Debate: Betting Shops - Credit: Archant

Government proposals granting councils more control over betting shops and pay day loan companies don’t go far enough, Hackney’s Mayor, Jules Pipe, has warned.

Hackney Council, which has been campaigning against the scourge of gambling establishments for more than five years, is calling on residents to have their say in a public consultation on whether planning permission should be needed to turn any retail unit into a bookies or loan shop.

Currently they can open a high-street branch in a range of premises – including former banks and restaurants – without needing approval.

It leaves the council powerless to stop clusters of betting or pay day loan shops forming – there are about 65 betting shops in Hackney, with eight on Mare Street alone.

Mr Pipe said: “The council has long been calling on government to give us the tools to tackle the blight of bookies in our high streets.

“What we need to do now is make sure this weight of opinion is reflected in the consultation process. It’s crucial we remain united as we should be in no doubt the powerful gambling lobby will do its best to water down these proposals.

“As well as the council submitting a response, we will be encouraging residents and organisations to make their voices heard too.”

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The mayor added: “For too many years councils have been powerless to stop the proliferation of betting shops, often cynically targeting deprived communities.

“Our campaigning has never been about banning them, it’s about giving councils and the people they represent the ability to strike the right balance. As such, the government’s proposals don’t go far enough as we would still be left powerless to address areas where bookies have already clustered.”

The council has campaigned to place betting shops and payday loan companies in their own planning class, so they must apply for planning permission before opening, as with nightclubs and casinos.

Last year it submitted a pioneering proposal to the government with its plan on how to tackle the problem, which was supported by other local authorities across the country.

n To find out how to have your say, go to