Lewisham Council has become embroiled in another battle with residents over the gambling license given to a betting shop on Deptford High Street.
Betfred, one of the world’s biggest independent betting chains, are currently seeking to open a betting shop in the old Halifax premises on the High Street. It would become the sixth betting shop in Deptford Town Centre.
Lewisham Council licensing committee has given Betfred a gambling license, despite vocal opposition and a petition signed by concerned residents about the growing number of betting shops. Many of those opposed to the shop’s application say that the council is breaking its own laws.
The prior owners of the building, Halifax, were first granted planning permission on the grounds that the premises were classified as A2, “a bank/building society”.
Condition two of the planning permission documentation states: “The premises may be used only for a building society and for no other purposes.”
For Betfred to occupy the premises, it would need to be granted a variation on condition two by the council.
Another factor that has sparked controversy is that the planning department of Lewisham Council, which considers applications, must take note of Lewishamʼs Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and various other national policies.
The UDP states that the town centre, Deptford High Street, should be a focus for retail activity. It also indicates that “shopping is to be the primary function” of the area.
The function of betting shops does not fall into the category prescribed by the council’s legislation.
Emelia Portia Opoku, owner of Prestige Textiles on Deptford High Street said: “ I think it is ridiculous that the council is contradicting their own guidelines.”
Betfred issued a statement defending the need for a betting shop in the area: “Betting shops are regarded as being key town centre uses and are seen to maintain the vitality and viability in town and city centres.”
Mark Pearsons, head of media for Betfred, also defended the application. He said that the company had “identified a clear demand [for betting shops] in the area.”
A spokesperson for Lewisham council said: “A number of objections have been received and it is likely the application for Betfred will go to the Planning Committee in due course. No date has yet been set.”
The deadline for objections to this application ends today, Wednesday.
The latest controversy regarding Lewisham licensing laws comes after the council approved proposals to replace the John Evelyn pub on Deptford High Street with a Paddy Power bookmakers in October 2010.
At the time, the licensing committee received over 50 letters of objection from local residents.