New bookies is ‘step back’ for Caledonian Road after Paddy Power wins appeal

Cllrs Convery and Una O'Halloran pictured last year outside the premises soon to be occupied by Padd

Cllrs Convery and Una O'Halloran pictured last year outside the premises soon to be occupied by Paddy Power in Caledonian Road. Picture: Vickie Flores - Credit: Vickie Flores/Archant

A new Paddy Power bookies is a “step back” for the Cally.

That’s the view of Cllr Paul Convery, after a planning inspector sided with the betting giant in its appeal against the town hall.

It came after Islington Council turned down Paddy Power’s plans to occupy the shop unit in 325, Caledonian Road. The Cally had been earmarked as an “area of concern” over its concentration of bookies – six within a 500m radius.

And ward Cllr Convery, who has spoken vociferously against the plans for the past year, said: “I am bitterly disappointed. This is a real step back for the Cally.

“I will be honest, the sky won’t fall in because of a new betting shop. But the Cally had really moved up a few notches with new and different businesses.

“So what we don’t need more of is fried chicken joints or bookies. These are places that a large part of the population won’t use, but a small part will. I worry about fixed odds betting terminals and can see people losing a lot of money.”

Paddy Power had pointed out the premises at 325 had been a Ladbrokes bookies for 15 years until 2001.

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But Cllr Convery said: “I am pretty staggered that a planning inspector can come to this decision after being presented with justifiable council policies. Islington has policy that specifically says: ‘No concentration of this type of use.’

“City Hall is the same, and that’s even going back to when old Bo Jo was mayor. You just wonder what world the inspector lives on.”

A number of units currently lie vacant around number 325. Cllr Convery accepted it looks unattractive, but would rather wait for “quality” businesses.

“We have a number of commercial properties with landlords sitting on the empty premises as their value goes up.

“We are challenging those landlords, and trying to attract good quality businesses that will have reasonably high turnover to offset business rates. I think we can do it, so we don’t have to go hell for leather by letting chains take over all the empty premises.

“I walk through high streets in central London – and frankly Islington – and I think: ‘Some of these shops just don’t sell stuff that people need and want.’ We want better for the Cally.”

In his report, planning inspector Jonathan Price said Paddy Power would not lead to a “significant cluster”, and that a single betting shop “would not cause material harm”.

He also accused Islington Council of “relying on general and quite valid concerns relating to betting shops, but not produced a persuasive case over the harm to the well-being of the community”.