Thanks to Ian who alerted me to this press release issued by the Mayor of London a couple of days ago, which gives Deptford's betting shop clusters as an example and highlights the fact that a prevalence of such premises 'could put people off shopping in and visiting those areas altogether'.
The proposals by Boris - that national planning law should be changed so that operators were required to apply for planning permission for each specific premises - would be useful in reducing the instances where betting shops can just open up in former bank or pub premises without having to apply for change of use planning permission (as in the case of Paddy Power at the Deptford Arms). If this change to national policy were made, Boris says he would 'consider' altering the London Plan policy 'to encourage boroughs to identify the kinds of business clusters they believe are beneficial or detrimental to high streets and town centres'.
It's not clear how much weight this would carry for local planners seeking to reject such applications, but it's a start. It's also interesting that with the Mayor of London making it an issue, it is effectively gaining some kind of cross-party support.
The Mayor of London has today written to Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, to call for a change in national planning law to help control the proliferation and clustering of betting shops, which has caused mounting concern in parts of London.
They have grown in number with an increased supply of premises such as vacant banks and pubs that do not require planning permission to be used as a betting shop. Betting firms are attracted to busy high streets and town centres with a ready supply of such premises. This has resulted in clustering in less prosperous areas like Hackney, which has 64 betting shops in the borough, 8 in Mare Street alone, and Deptford with seven betting shops on one street. With less than 10 per cent of Londoners using betting shops the Mayor believes this can negatively impact on the vitality and viability of town centres and the quality of life of those living nearby. High numbers of betting shops with long opening hours increasing concerns about community safety could put people off shopping in and visiting those areas altogether.
The Mayor proposes that betting shop operators wishing to open up a new outlet should be required to apply for planning permission for the chosen premises, which would allow proper consideration to be given to each proposal for a betting shop and its effect on individual centres. If the Government changed planning policy in this way he would consider altering his own London Plan policy to encourage boroughs to identify the kinds of business clusters they believe are beneficial or detrimental to high streets and town centres.
The Mayor said:
"I recognise that betting shops have an important role to play in our culture and provide entertainment to many people. But there is a balance to be struck between having betting shops as a part of the high street retail mix and the negative impact they can have on shoppers and visitors when they start to dominate.
"Requiring operators to obtain planning permission seems a sensible way to achieve the checks and balances needed to ensure our towns remain attractive places to visit, shop and spend time in."