Following on from the successful planning application for a betting shop on Main Street, Dickens Heath I have looked at a few issues; readers may wish to view the post on my website of 23 February https://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2014/02/23/planning-aplication-betting-shop-in-dickens-heath/
Notwithstanding reasons for objection from residents and two speakers (one a ward councillor, the other a former councillor) there were no principles in planning law for the application to not succeed. I can see the value of having a business using a void shopping unit and the value of the permitted development rule (whereby businesses can use a shop for two years before getting planning permission) but what if? What if another betting organisation wanted to open a shop further down the road? How can the parish council, borough council, and more importantly, residents have a say?
It must be recognised recent changes to planning law have not caused this issue. Yes, the permitted development focus does allow some businesses a freer rein, but growth in betting shops has occurred over the last 7 or more years – look at Shirley High Street and Solihull Town Centre. Images below are of Main Street, Dickens Heath.
Now, I am not against betting and am an avid spectator of horse racing having visited many tracks all over the country (Goodwood is my favourite, closely followed by Cheltenham. But Stratford races on a nice summers days is perfect).
The answer may lay in a campaign recently launched by the Local Government Association (LGA). The campaign runs alongside the ‘Rewiring Public Services’ as reported in my post on 18 Feb ( see link: https://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2014/02/18/rewiring-public-services/ ). This is a separate campaign aimed at ‘Rewiring Licensing’. The link to that specific page on the LGA website is:http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/5854661/L14-40+rewiring+open+for+business.+v3.pdf/6b8aa308-94cd-4af5-9b3a-5f2696a9a4b5 but the report itself can be viewed here: Rewiring Licensing
The LGA calls for a full reform of the licensing framework which would deliver a deregulatory approach that frees up business and council time while maintaining important safeguards for local communities and businesses. This has the support from betting industry bosses who have come out in favour of reforms with William Hill chief Ralph Topping calling for councils to be handed greater powers to block the opening of new shops on already clustered high streets.
What can I do?
Well, I can help make raise awareness of this campaign to fellow councillors. The full council recently endorsed another LGA led campaign ‘Rewiring Public Services’ – this was aimed at unlocking democracy, but we must endorsed this LGA campaign to ensure new shops and businesses add benefit to an area and allow local people to have a bigger say in their communities.