Thanks to pressure from Liberal Democrat Ministers local Councils are to be given tougher powers to protect communities from betting shop clustering following strong lobbying by Liberal Democrat ministers. The Government has at last agreed to consult on plans to place betting shops in their own planning class to stop them taking over empty shops without the need for a change of use planning permission.
In the current system, a betting shop is in the same category as a bank or estate agent and can open without the need for a planning application when a shop becomes vacant. The proposed changes mean that local authorities will have the power to scrutinise applications and refuse them where there are grounds to do so.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said the proposals will help areas desperate to protect high streets at risk of being over-run by betting shops. It will also help councils protect residents at particular risk of harm from problem gambling and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
Welcoming the proposals Luton Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. David Franks said “Local residents have consistently called for tougher powers to address problems caused by the proliferation of betting shops and FOBTs so we are pleased the government has listened to our concerns and is taking action. This will be a significant step in the right direction. I urge the Government to implement these changes urgently.”
“Liberal Democrats are not anti-bookies, and understand that betting shops can be an important part of local communities that create jobs for local people. However, we know how concerned people are by clusters of betting shops taking over the high street, and there are also fears that people losing money through Fixed Odds Betting Terminals are turning to payday lenders and loan sharks to pay off debts or fund their gambling.
Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
“Across the country many people are concerned about the explosion in the number of betting shops in some high streets. We are determined to build a stronger economy and a fairer society with healthy and diverse high streets that aren’t dominated by betting shops, this is why the government is now giving councils tough new powers to prevent the proliferation of betting shops in their area.”