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Southwark to make it more difficult to open a payday loan shop

Southwark Council is to introduce tighter planning controls to make it more difficult to open betting shops, payday loan shops and pawnbrokers on the borough's high streets.

Fiona Colley
Cllr Fiona Colley has spoken out against "legal loan sharks"

At present, payday loan shops and bookmakers do not require planning permission to open in premises formerly occupied by a restaurant, pub or takeaway.

Now Southwark Council plans to revoke this permitted development right and require anyone proposing to open a financial services business in a former food and drink establishment on a high street to seek planning permission.

"I can announce today that I am am asking the planning committee to introduce an article 4 direction with immediate effect to remove permitted development rights for the change of use from hot food takeaways (A5), drinking establishments (A4) and restaurants and cafes (A3) to a use in the A2 use class," said Southwark Council leader Cllr Peter John in a written answer tabled at this week's council assembly meeting.

The change will only apply to Southwark's formally designated protected shopping frontages which in SE1 include parts of Borough High Street, Tower Bridge Road, Great Suffolk Street, Waterloo Road, Old Kent Road and The Cut.

The new policy does not mean that the council will be able to block any such payday loan shops or bookmakers but will increase the number of hoops a prospective operator has to jump through.

Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy, said: "Payday loan shops are often nothing more than legal loan sharks preying on the vulnerable and people are fed up with the increasing number popping up all over Southwark.

"That is why we are taking action to make it more difficult for payday lenders to set up shop in former restaurants, pubs and takeaways. But the fact of the matter is there is little we can do without concerted action from the Government.

"Time and again we see councils powerless to stop the spread of payday lenders, betting shops or fast food takeaways because this Government is in thrall to the whims of the free market.

"Even Simon Hughes, who claims to stand up for local people, opposed a proposal from Labour that would have changed the use class for betting shops making it more difficult for them to set up here."

Last week Simon Hughes used a lecture on social justice at Blackburn Cathedral to call for a cap on interest rates for payday loans and for the Government to do more to promote credit unions.

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