More than four years since my first post about betting shops on this blog, and finally I read some vaguely good news about changes to planning powers. While the detail has still to be revealed, media reports suggest that planning law will be changed so that betting shops are classified separately to other 'financial' services, and local authorities will be given more power to refuse new betting shops where clustering is a concern.
Even four years ago Deptford High Street had six betting shops, but the subject of my post was the imminent loss of the Deptford Arms pub to Paddy Power. Within a very short time Paddy Power also took over the John Evelyn pub on Evelyn Street and turned that into another branch, presumably for those people incapable of staggering to any of the other three betting shops on the Evelyn triangle.
When the Halifax closed down its branch on Deptford High Street within weeks of Paddy Power's latest licence being granted, I predicted what would happen next; it was only due to a condition imposed when the previous planning application was granted that the planners were able to reject Betfred's attempts to open a branch in the empty unit. They had to reject it twice - Betfred was so determined to have its own branch on a street with so many that despite the first application being rejected, and the decision upheld by the Planning Inspectorate, they submitted a second application which was also rejected by the council and the Planning Inspectorate.
Since then things have gone rather quiet - cynically I suspect it's nothing to do with the success of our campaign, rather the fact that there's been a dearth of shop units with suitable business classifications for the betting shops to target.
As it stands at the moment, betting shops come in the same business classification as banks, building societies and other financial services, so if a bank closes down, the betting shop does not need to apply for any 'change of use' permission to use the same shop unit. Likewise if a pub closes, betting shops can move into those premises at the drop of a hat.
From what I'm reading, betting shops will be given a separate use class and hence will have to apply to convert old banks, pubs etc into new betting shops. And if councils are able to use the argument of 'clustering' of betting shops as a reason to reject an application, so much the better.
Any change to the law can't come soon enough - the Harp of Erin at the bottom of the high street has been closed for some time now, and many locals fear that we will be seeing it reopen as a betting shop before too long.