Planning Reform upsets the odds for Bookies

Posted on 25 June, 2014 by Cliff Goodwin

Government plans to reshape and revitalise Britain’s high streets could prove a costly gamble for betting shop owners, according one commercial property agent.


Under a planning regulation shake-up — expected to take affect this October — bookmakers intending to open premises would be required to submit a planning application, giving local councils the opportunity to reject plans.

“The measure is designed to give greater power to local authorities to control the number of high street betting shops in their area,” explained Samantha Jones, a surveyor with Northamptonshire-based Prop-Search.

The betting shop crackdown is part of the Government’s broader planning reform, intended to create a smaller planning use class specifically targeted at betting shops. Any proposed scheme that wants to convert a bank, building society or estate agency into a betting shop, would be required to submit a planning application.

The Government also intends to close an existing loophole which currently allows other premises, such as restaurants and pubs, to change use to a betting shop without requiring planning permission. A formal consultation process will be carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government on this and other planning law issues this summer.

“Existing planning legislation lays out different classifications on the use of property,” said Jones. “Traditionally betting shops have fallen within the same ‘use class’ as banks and estate agencies which has meant that gambling operators have found converting old banks or building society branches into betting shops more attractive because it does not constitute a change of use of the property.

“The approach could potentially see the number of betting shops curbed in areas where there is a lot of local hostility towards them,” she adds.

“However, at a time when banks are increasingly shutting branches, local authorities face a challenge in balancing views that oppose the proliferation of betting shops with the need to ensure that retail units on the high street do not lie empty.”

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