When the Geezer came home last night with a tip-off that the Deptford Arms pub was slated to become a betting shop, I initially thought he was trying an early April fool joke on me.
However after a bit of digging I was shocked to discover that it was true. Earlier this month Lewisham's licensing committee granted bookmaker Paddy Power a licence to operate a betting shop at 52 Deptford High Street, otherwise known as the Deptford Arms.
In case you are not familiar with the High Street betting shops, let me give you a quick tour:
FOUR out of the High Street's SIX existing betting shops are clustered in the south end, within a couple of hundred yards of each other and all on the same side of the street. In the middle of this little cluster is the Deptford Arms, one of the High Street's remaining pubs and not a bad little boozer. Just the spot for a new branch of Paddy Power, our council licensing committee seems to think.
But to be fair to the council, they do face ongoing difficulties in controlling the number of betting shops that can open in any particular area. They are not allowed to turn down a licence application simply because there are already several similar businesses nearby - in the same way that they couldn't stop another greengrocer or butcher shop from opening. The passing of the Gambling Act in 2005, which moved the responsibility for licensing from the courts to the local councils, also restricted the grounds on which applications could be rejected.
It was not long before councils were becoming concerned about a proliferation of betting shops, many of them in very deprived areas. In fact Lewisham Council was the lead authority on a proposal that has been shortlisted by the Local Government Association and submitted to central government as a suggested addition/amendment to the Sustainable Communities Act.
This proposes that councils should have the power to cap the number of bookmakers in a certain area, and also gives them the power to turn down applications on the basis of over-saturation.
The same problems have frequently been highlighted by Green councillor Sue Luxton in her ward in Ladywell.
Meanwhile Paddy Power has also had to apply for planning permission for "The installation of new shopfronts and a roller shutter to the front and side of Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High Street SE8, together with alterations to the elevations and the installation of air conditioning units and satellite dishes to the rear" as well as "The display of internally illuminated fascia and projecting signs to the front and side elevations of Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High Street SE8".
I understand that although no final decision has been published yet, the council planning inspector has decided to reject Paddy Power's application to put lurid green facades all over the building. Although the building itself is not listed individually, it does come within the section of the High Street that is listed. I don't know the reasons that will be given for the application to be rejected; unfortunately I suspect this won't be the last we hear of it.
At this stage I would like to pose a couple of questions of my own; if anyone can answer them feel free to do so in the comments or email me if you are too shy.
- why were no objections to the application received from the local councillors in New Cross ward? (according to the News Shopper one of the ward's councillors seems to be shirking other duties too). Their objections might not have made any difference but surely they should be taking an interest?
- why is the pub closing? I don't believe the building has been sold and it seems to do relatively good business, so why the change? For the last couple of years the management seems to have made a big effort to improve the place, and as well as championing live music, introduced an art gallery in the basement and hosted plays/poetry/literary events. If the Deptford Arms goes, the High Street will be left with just one solitary pub - yes, the White Swan! (Be afraid, be very afraid!)