Thursday 1 April 2010

Deptford Arms/Paddy Power

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!)


keith said...

The lewisham planning website shows just 1 objection, actually 3 others were sent (not from local councillors - you have a point! - perhaps too busy canvassing - only time I ever see them!) but we were told that they were received outside the consultation period so they haven't been registered. The planners told us that our points would still be considered - the case has yet to be decided - there is still time to object via the councils website or by email direct to the planning officer/dept

I believe the planning and design officers are doing their best but cant prevent change of use - which of course is the biggy.

some points that we put to them;

Lewisham Council duty to protect the amenity of Deptford High street and encourage its development as a commercial centre. (eg Creative Lewisham Initiative) .....maintaining some level of activity on the high street in the evening, as both a generator of trade, but for local security. The removal of the Deptford Arms, particularly given its location will permanently remove this possibility.

The proposals indicate full height interior advertising inside the windows, and in keeping with most betting premises therfore contribute little to the activity along the high street in terms of active shop frontage.

Other points were just as you have stated.

In the past Lewisham have a pretty poor record in encouraging sympathetic development in the conservation area -

kennedys butchers - ripped out without consent
pilot pub - ditto
centurion pub - aluminium windows and damage to mouldings
countless others over the past 10 years I've been here

Now the shopfronts have gone all that remains to preserve is the historic fabric of the upper parts - the flats above the shops and the proliferation of plastic windows and satellite dishes do little to 'preserve or enhance' the appearance of the conservation area - the benchmark against which the planners are required to assess any application.

The decision to give the high street CA status was made by lewisham council itself, it has a duty to all of us either to revoke the status (and save a whole load of money) or to do this challenging job properly; we have a lot to loose.

The loss of the deptford arms is a tragedy.

Gareth Gardner said...

This is such a sad and distressing story, and Keith's comments about the loss of other pubs in Deptford makes it even more tragic.

Pubs are a vital part of our heritage and culture, and they play an ongoing valuable role in our communities. A good pub can be excellent for business, perhaps by attracting people to visit an area, eating at local restaurants or spending money in nearby shops. I'm not sure the same can be said of a betting shop!

One of the key characteristics of Deptford High Street is the sheer diversity and variety of commercial offerings. A street lined with betting shops lacks this vitality. It's a bit like other high streets filled with estate agents, or Starbucks (here in my West London manor we have one of the highest concentration of estate agents in the country, not to mention three Starbucks in 200 yards).

Deptford High Street is lined with many historic, beautiful and fascinating buildings. The crass signage of a Paddy Power bookmaker (The Ryanair of betting shops) will do nothing to enhance this valuable streetscape. Pints of Guinness all round!

Sue said...

Hello Dame, I heard about this last week but failed to find any information to substantiate it. Is it 'sold' or not?!
See my recent posts on crosswhatfields. I have made a Google map to complement your pix, and we are making links to your post.

Anonymous said...

Alas My Ship! Alas The Arms!

John said...

I'm not too hot on this but doesn't the Sustainable Communities Act dictate that full planning permission is required to change the use of a building currently being used as a pub? I think this was something being pursued in the past but I don't know whether Lewisham requested that this be included. It may be worth chasing ward councillors on this?

There's a good article on page 4 of the London Drinker (available from Wetherspoons and the D&B) on the Royal George in Greenwich which is pertinent to this cause.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% sure that Paddy Power are opening a shop on Deptford High Street. They're advertising vacancies there now.

. said...

Is there any connection between the Deptford Arms and New Cross Inn? A couple of years ago they were very much marketed as part of the same package, in terms of music promoters etc. Simon Nunhdy, landlord of the New Cross Inn, is standing as Tory candidate for Mayor of Lewisham.

Deptford Dame said...

@transpontine yes I believe they are/were owned by the same person

Caroline said...

What can be done to stop this happening? I am not down with planning etc so not sure how to go about campaigning against something like this? I thought deptford high street was changing for the better but something like this could ruin it forever. Is there someone we should be writing to? The council?

Deptford dame said...

@caroline I suggest letters to local councillors would not go amiss, what with the elections coming up. At the very least they might see it as a bandwagon on which to jump.

keith said...

just checked for an update - the planning application for the changes to the deptford arms has been refused. this does no affect the license which as DD has stated, has been granted. i that suspect another planning application will be made shortly - this will be open to public comment - stand by!

Deptford Dame said...

@keith thanks for the confirmation of what I was told by the planning department. Please let me know if you hear about an appeal/new planning application before I do, either by commenting here or emailing me (my address is in the sidebar). I'm sure lots of my readers would be keen to send comments to the planning department/local councillors.

Unknown said...

I'm not a big supporter of pubs - judging by the scenes I've seen outside some of them, I question their contribution to night-time activity and security on the high street. I once worked in a bookie's shop, and I can state that their effect on a deprived community is far worse than any pub's, and in fact is most likely worse than you can imagine.

To be clear, betting shops take advantage of people's misguided hopes, their desperation and their weakness to hoover up what little money they have, and take it out of the local area. At work, I observed that money staked was often what would be spent on bills, food and other essentials, and the effect of the in-shop TVs is to dissuade bettors from emerging from the shop, whereby the fresh air often brought them to their senses while they still had a few pence left in their pockets.

It is shameful for permission to be able to be granted for a seventh betting shop/social menace on the one street in our area. Distressed bettors are often banned from shops for drunkenness, disputing with staff, badgering other customers for money and spoiling the 'atmosphere' with public breakdowns. In Deptford the irresponsible bettor can go round all the shops in turn, being drained and then banned in each one. Central government is well aware of these problems, I can only imagine that they are drugged by the massive taxes they collect from Ladbrokes et al.

I can only think of four betting shops in the whole of Blackheath - more affluent bettors prefer to do it all online nowadays - it's easier to keep track of your winnings and losses, and the betting websites give much better odds.

I would like to see a maximum of two bookies on our High St, and I would like to see every bookmaker issue Oyster-like cards to their customers, so they can swipe them and keep track of their overall losses. Believe me, 98% of them (and usually their families) are losing in the long run.