Thanks to Bill on Deptford Misc for tipping me off to the fact that the planning inspector published his decision on this case yesterday.
If you remember, the problem for Betfred was that the original planning permission only allowed a building society to occupy the former Halifax premises. Betfred had to make a planning application to widen the type of businesses allowed to occupy the premises so that it would include all so-called 'financial services' that form part of class A2 use today (banks, betting shops, pawnbrokers etc).
Although in fact Betfred's appeal to widen the planning usage class has been 'allowed', the planning inspector has placed a condition that this should EXCLUDE betting shops.
Ironically he disagreed with those of us who argued that it would undermine the vitality and viability of Deptford High Street (since it did not involve the loss of a retail unit) but was spectacularly damning of the impact it would have on the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour on the street.
It's particularly interesting that the anecdotal evidence was given significant weight by the inspector, and that although he noted the police records were not detailed, they were also important.
"It is true the information provided is anecdotal rather than “formal” with exact
details of dates and incidents. However, the frequency of the views expressed
paint a clear picture of the nature of the problems experienced with betting
offices in Deptford High Street."
"There is a strong body of evidence from local residents and shopkeepers that
the existing betting offices in the Core Area give rise to anti-social behaviour,
crime and disturbance. Representations refer to feelings of being intimidated
and threatened by groups of people ‘hanging around’ outside other betting
offices. There is a persistent thread of concerns about associated drinking,
drug taking and begging as well as reports of verbal abuse, fighting and
shouting. As far as many of those living and working locally are concerned
there is a clear link between these happenings and the existing betting offices."
"The evidence of the Police is also instructive. Both the Sergeant for the New
Cross Safer Neighbourhood Team and the Licensing Officer oppose the
proposal. The position ‘on the ground’ is confirmed by the Police in terms of
complaints about existing premises and of harassment, alarm and distress
caused to the public by beggars, drinkers and drug users. The Sergeant
believes that another such venue would add to crime in the area."
"Drawing things together the evidence shows that betting offices in the area are
associated with crime but whether this is abnormally serious has not been
established. More persuasive are the accounts of people familiar with the area
about disorder associated with existing premises. In general terms there is no
reason to suppose that those visiting betting offices would be more likely to
commit a crime or to behave in an anti-social manner than anyone else.
However, for whatever reason, the evidence that premises in Deptford High
Street act as a ‘magnet’ for miscreants is compelling."
"...an additional premises would simply add to problems and should not be supported."
In his conclusions the inspector said: "It would be likely to give rise to anti-social behaviour and disturbance to local residents and users of the town centre. There is also a risk of an increase in crime. As a result use of the High Street would become less safe and pleasant."
This is excellent news for Deptford High Street, but I hope that this decision will also set a precedent for other areas which are experiencing similar levels of crime and disorder related to proliferation of betting shops. It seems to me that it should also have some resonance for the decision-making process relating to licensing of betting shops - where potential impact on crime and disorder are supposed to be considered.
The full details are on the planning inspectorate website here - click on 'decision' and you will be taken to a page where you can download the decision letter.