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Too much power for Paddy

The national Planning Inspectorate has overturned decisions made by Waltham Forest Council to refuse permission for Paddy Power to open two new betting shops in the borough.

Appeals were lodged in relation to two locations in the borough where the Council refused permission – one at 231-233 Hoe Street in Walthamstow and the other at 657-661 High Road Leyton.

The Planning Inspector allowed a change of use from a retail shop to a betting shop at both locations, dismissing the Council’s arguments around associated crime and the proliferation and clustering of betting shops.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth for local people who have been pressing us to do everything we can to stop more betting shops springing up on their local high streets,” said Councillor Clare Coghill, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and High Streets.

“The sad fact is that while we fight them as best as we can, we are being prevented from stopping all of the applications from succeeding in spite of our best efforts.”

The Inspector concluded that the new shops would not contribute to proliferation either as a whole or in the particular area in question. Largely this came down to his decision to ignore the Council’s evidence that there had been a 16 per cent increase in the number of betting shops since 2005 in favour of the measure presented by Paddy Power that used figures based on licensing records from 2007.

The Inspector also said that he did not consider either appeal sites were close to existing clusters of betting shops and reacted to crime figures submitted by the Council by saying that they did not suggest that betting shops attracted “more than their fair share of trouble.”

It’s a huge disappointment to the Council that the power to make local decisions can be overruled in this way, particularly when both applications are located in central and southern areas of the borough where deprivation is most intense.

There has been an increasing trend within the betting industry to target the most vulnerable communities, with shops being set up in locations intended to attract more and more people to problem gambling. In particular, the size of stake and speed with which money can be accepted by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) provided in betting shops make them an addictive form of betting.

PHOTO: The new Paddy Power betting shop on Hoe Street.

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