SE1 councillor highlights proliferation of bookies on local high streets

Chaucer ward Labour councillor Claire Hickson has highlighted residents' concerns about the increasing number of betting shops opening up in Southwark.

"We need a healthy mix of shops on our shopping streets, like Borough High Street, for local residents to use," says Chaucer ward Labour councillor Claire Hickson.

"There are already several bookmakers in the area and unless action is taken there could be significantly more, as has happened in other parts of the borough like Walworth.

ôLocal residents have already expressed concern about new betting shops opening up as other shops close down."

Borough High Street has recently gained a new Paddy Power branch, joining the existing Coral and William Hill shops.

As well as bookmakers, several gaming establishments have also opened in recent years.

Last month Tottenham MP David Lammy tabled an amendment to the Government's Localism Bill which would have put betting shops into a use class of their own, giving councils more power to resist change of use.

The amendment was voted down by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, including Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes.

Currently bookmakers can open up in the same premises as a bank, estate agent, pub, takeaway or restaurant without the need for any planning permission. Changing the planning class would force any new betting shop to obtain planning permission first, giving councils and residents greater opportunity to control the type of shops that open.

"This Labour amendment would have put power into local residents' hands allowing them decide whether there should be any more," says Cllr Hickson.

Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone lent his support to David Lammy's campaign. He said: "The huge increase in the number of betting shops in London has changed the character of high streets across London and I believe it is time for Londoners and local authorities to be given greater powers to ensure our high streets do not become completely dominated by gambling establishments."

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this year, Simon Hughes welcomed the Localism Bill's provisions on community empowerment. He said: "It is really important that the community will be able to say, 'We don't want that parade to end up all off licences or betting shops. We want there to be a greengrocer, a fishmonger or a baker'."

Local Lib Dem councillors have also been outspoken in their opposition to the tactics employed by bookmakers and gaming centres to exploit loopholes in the planning and licensing regimes.

• We approached Simon Hughes MP's office for a comment but no response was received by the time of publication (Parliament is currently in recess).

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