August 22 2014 Latest news:
By Syma Mohammed
Saturday, May 3, 2014
New laws giving councils the power to curb the growth of betting shops have been welcomed by Town Hall bosses.
Bookies wanting to open shops will have to submit a planning application and local authorities will be able to refuse applications and stop new betting shops opening in their area.
The move follows years of campaigning led by Hackney Council which saw 31 other London boroughs, including Islington, sign a petition urging the Government to take action.
The new rules mean that bookies will 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.
There are about 65 betting shops in Hackney with eight in Mare Street alone, while in Islington the number of betting shops has doubled in the last decade to 72.
Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe said: “This announcement represents a real victory for local government and demonstrates what councils can achieve when they unite for a cause. Hackney Council, along with authorities across the country, has long been calling on government to give us the tools to 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 current betting shop free-for-all.”
Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, also welcomed the changes but wants the Government to go even further.
“In Islington over the last few years we have been overrun by requests for new betting shops after the government’s decision to relax planning laws,” he said.
“Islington Labour has been campaigning for some time to ensure more local powers to curb the growth of betting shops and payday lenders and I’m pleased they have finally listened to our demands.
“Will they now give us permission to close those they allowed to open over the last few years?”
Under existing legislation, bookies 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.
Local authorities have 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.
Mayor Pipe added: “We will now look into the detail of these proposals. If, as it appears, they could deliver the meaningful change to planning law which we’ve been campaigning for we will push for any new legislation to be brought in as soon as possible. Such changes cannot come soon enough and it’s crucial councils remain united during the consultation process as we should be in no doubt the powerful gambling lobby will do its best to water down these proposals.”