Court dismisses attempt to ban bookies

Updated: 

Paddy Power marketing

Newham Council failed in its efforts to ban Paddy Power from opening another shop in the borough. It argued that bookies attract underage gambling, drinking and violence. It also highlighted that it believed the shop's profits would come largely from gaming machines rather than traditional betting.

The court disagreed, so what does it mean for the UK's high streets?


Newham

Newham already has more than 80 betting shops, and took a stand against a new one. It originally rejected Paddy Power's application for planning permission, the bookies won an appeal, and this was the council's attempt to overturn the appeal ruling.

However, the judge decided that there was no evidence that the betting shop would attract anti-social behaviour or crime, and he ordered the council to pay £33,900 costs. Judge Goldspring said: "I find it significant the police did not object to the licence and agreed conditions. One would have thought, that if the concerns of the local authority were evidenced and well founded, the police would have said so then and at this appeal."

Spread

The proliferation of betting shops on the high street came on the back of the 2005 Gambling Act, which relaxed planning rules in order to allow more of them. According to The Independent, Councillor Ian Corbett, executive member for the environment, described current legislation as "toothless in dealing with the clustering of betting shops and the proliferation of high stakes gaming machines".

Campaigning MP, David Lamy, told the Daily Mail: "This was a high-profile case being watched very closely and I have no doubt now that this will be a red rag to bookmakers to go for it, and take the opportunity to move into high streets up and down the country in even bigger numbers."

Concerns

The result may mean more betting shops, which will worry many people. A survey by the Local Government Association found that 68% of people are against existing rules that allow betting shops to take over banks and building societies' premises without planning permission. It also showed worries of 'clusters' of shops such as betting shops, sex shops and takeaways.

Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said: "This opinion poll shows local people want government to give councils the powers to tackle unsightly clusters of sex shops, bookies and takeaways that can blight so many of our high streets. People want action so the places they live, work and shop can be revitalised to reflect how they want them to look and feel."

"Councils want high streets to thrive and are on the side of local people and are ready to put a stop to high numbers of unsavoury takeaways, betting shops and strip clubs where there is a demand to do so. High streets across the UK have suffered a cardiac arrest and it is now time to let local authorities step in and deliver the necessary life support."

Positives

However, there are those who highlight that in themselves, there is nothing wrong with betting shops. In a statement following the ruling, Paddy Power said: "Paddy Power makes a positive contribution to local communities in which it operates."

"The UK high street is currently facing unprecedented challenges and our expanding retail presence adds much needed vitality and footfall to localities around the country as well as vital employment. Paddy Power is a responsible operator that takes proactive measures to offer a safe and responsible leisure experience for its customers and the community."

There's an argument that if you want a strong and thriving local high street, a bookies opening up will drive footfall to the other shops on the street. It will mean a shop front that is rented and cared for, rather than standing empty and symbolic of the decline of the high street.

It was this thinking which encouraged the government to change the rules in May this year to allow shops to switch use and become bookmakers without planning permission (for the next two years) in order to prevent the spectre of ghost towns across the country.

But what do you think? Would you rather have a new betting shop or an empty shop on your high street? Let us know in the comments.

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