‘Hundreds of jobs could be lost in Islington’ as betting shop regulations are relaxed

File photo dated 18/09/12 of money as the Treasury would save over £2 billion a year if worker

File photo dated 18/09/12 of money as the Treasury would save over £2 billion a year if workers were paid the Living Wage because of higher income tax payments and lower spending on benefits, a new study has suggested. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Nearly 400 jobs could be lost in Islington over the next decade after legislation was passed making it easier to open betting shops and payday loan businesses, a report has warned.

Research company Landman Economics has estimated that some 368 posts face the axe if existing shops are lost to gambling or loan businesses in the borough, due to recently passed General Permitted Development Order (GPDO).

The new rules allow the conversion of existing shops, dentists and pubs into betting shops or payday loan businesses without council consent.

As well as the transformation, buildings can also be converted for housing under the new rules.

The warning comes as Islington Council last week became the first council in the country to take action to overturn the new government planning policy which, it claims, will have a “devastating effect” on the borough’s economy.

In total, Islington has 62 betting shops and residents spent £414 million pounds last year on the betting shop roulette machines.

Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, James Murray, said: “In Islington we’ve got firm plans for stopping too many betting shops and payday lenders, for protecting local jobs, and for building affordable housing. But the government’s changes are undermining what we’re trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans in a reckless free-for-all.”

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The report shows that fixed odds betting terminals, which include games such as poker and blackjack, reduce employment – and that businesses are targetting high streets in deprived areas.

Fairer Gambling spokesman, Adrian Parkinson, said: “The increasing prevalence of betting shops, accompanied by payday lenders, is sucking money out of local economies and away from local businesses.”

He added: “There is also concern that high streets are becoming ‘ghettoised’ by betting shops and payday loan companies, making them less appealing for other retailers to move into.”

However, a spokesman for Ladbrokes believes that betting shops are positive for communities and are far from targeting the poor.

Ciaran O’Brien said: “Betting shops are merely locating where they can reach the highest footfall and most customers.”

She added: “They attract footfall to shopping centres that assist other types of retail such as newsagents and cafes, as well as ensuring a vibrant high street during day and evenings.”

The council last week sent out thousands of letters to local businesses to persuade them from converting into a betting shop or payday loan business.

It is challenging the government’s permitted development rights in two ways: by issuing an Article 4 direction to bring some of these powers back under council control, meaning that a planning application will be required; and by seeking a judicial review of the ‘‘office to residential’’ rule and the way in which the government decision was made on granting exemptions.