Thursday, 10 January 2013

Gambling shops spread in W12

Our MP has attacked the Council's decision to support the opening of new gambling shops in Shepherd's Bush, with the latest example having been the replacement of the J Hunt family butchers at 173 Uxbridge Road with another branch of Ladbrokes.

There is of course another Ladbrokes within a few minutes walk further along Uxbridge Road down near the H&C tube, and in the other direction a few minutes walk away on Askew Road. The new Ladbrokes sits almost directly opposite a William Hill, of which there are also numerous outlets around. In the Hammersmith constituency there are now 41 such shops.

Andy Slaughter has condemned the decision, claiming that there are enough betting shops in the area already and accusing the council of failing to protect our local high streets from decline and local residents from exploitation by the big bookmaking firms.

While Max Schmid, Labour candidate for Wormholt and White City in next month’s council by-election, said:
“Many people have told me on the doorstep that they are concerned by this decline. Our high streets are the heart of our communities: if I am elected on 7th Feb, I will be demanding that the council takes seriously its duty to ensure they are not swamped by business that put little back into a neighbourhood.”
A year ago, TV’s town centre expert Mary Portas produced a report for the government saying she believed “the influx of betting shops, often in more deprived areas, is blighting our high streets”. But the government refused to take any action to prevent the big bookmaking firms flooding our streets with more betting shops, claiming that adequate legislation was already in place.

Only last weekend, The Fairer Gambling Campaign released figures showing Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs – a modern type of “Fruit Machine”) in licensed betting shops are taking a disproportionate amount of money in areas of high unemployment.

Areas of high unemployment and less well-off communities appear to be most popular with the big bookmaking firms. They provide a ready customer base and there are more likely to be vacant premises at rock-bottom rents. It is a toxic combination, according to the MP: Hammersmith has 41 betting shops and 149 Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: Chelsea & Fulham has half that number - 20 shops and 73 FOBTs; Richmond Park has 14 shops and 51 FOBTs.

Andy Slaughter said:
“I know from my postbag every time a new betting shop is proposed that very many of my constituents are unhappy at the proliferation of betting shops, payday loans stores, pawnbrokers and other parasitic ventures: they contribute little to the well-being of a shopping street, economically or socially. 
“It is high time that government and local councils, stepped in to reverse this trend. It is nothing to do with demand and supply – any passer-by will confirm that many betting shops are virtually empty most of the time. Many bookmakers justify their application for Fruit Machines by claiming that a shop wouldn’t be viable without them. There is no demand for so many of these shops – they are there because big businesses realise they can make a fast buck. There is a place for betting shops in our towns – but I agree with Mary Portas that the current proliferation is damaging our high streets and our communities.”
 25th Jan UPDATE: With thanks to Cllr Harry Phibbs, it seems that this issue is basically out of the hands of our Council when it comes to deciding whether or not to give planning permission. Here's what a Council official in the relevant department had to say in relation to this case, this week:
"It is worth noting that until the Government consider a change to the way betting premises are classified in the use classes order, officers cannot treat them any differently in land use terms to an estate agents, bank, employment agency etc all of which fall within the same use class as a betting office in planning legislation."

1 comment:

  1. Well, sure enough Uxbridge Road is a dump and the replacement of the butcher by a bookmaker is a step in the wrong direction. However, I fail to see how it's the council's job to find a more suitable replacement.

    I suspect the truth is that there is very little demand for retail space on the Uxbridge Road by anybody other than the current mix of occupiers (fried chicken outlets, halal butchers, pawnbrokers, bookmakers etc.). The fact that any vacant premises either remain vacant for long periods or are filled by the usual suspects seems to bear this out. Their threadbare condition suggests that even these occupiers are far from finding the location to be a goldmine.

    One thing the council could try is to reduce the amount of retail space available throught the planning system by e.g. favouring commercial and residential development. A controversial suggestion maybe, but worth some thought.