Local councils push for cumulative impact test for betting shop 'clusters'

Local councils push for cumulative impact test for betting shop 'clusters'

Monday, July 25, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
The LGA wants powers to stop betting shops overpowering high street areas

The Local Government Association (LGA) is asking for local councils to be granted enhanced planning powers as the controversy over betting shop ‘clustering’ in the UK.

The LGA, which represents the local authorities around the country, believes that there should be a cumulative impact test which monitors the effects on an area of having a gathering of betting shops on the high street.

Using data found by Geofutures on behalf of the Responsible Gambling Trust, the LGA believes it has identified that rates of problem gambling are higher in areas with clusters of betting shops and wants its members to have the power to address the issue.

Cllr Tony Page, the LGA's Licensing spokesman, said: "Councils are not anti-bookies but a new cumulative impact test - which the LGA has previously urged government to introduce - would give them the power to veto new shops in areas already saturated by betting shops. This new research indicates higher levels of problem and at-risk gamblers living near clusters of betting shops and emphasises the need for government to look at these issues again."

The LGA said that the Geofutures analysis of betting shop loyalty card holders shows that 28 per cent of those living within 400 metres of a cluster of betting shops are problem gamblers, compared with 22 per cent of those who don't live near them.

The councils have long complained against the planning powers that were bequeathed to them under the 2005 Gambling Act as they were much more restrictive than normal. The government at the time recognised that gambling’s political status would have made it easy for local councils to refuse applications for emotive reasons rather than business ones, so made sure that any application refusals were for watertight reasons. This led to many of the major corporate bookmakers winning planning permission after lengthy legal appeals.

Page continued: “Councils up and down the country are frustrated by the lack of powers they have to curb the number of betting shops on our high streets. The LGA and councils have long argued that betting shop clustering has a detrimental impact on local high streets, but this ground-breaking research now clearly shows the risks it has for individuals as well.”

Totally Gaming Says: Councils have long been pushing for extra powers to curb betting shops ever since they fell into their planning remit from the Magistrates Court, but the clustering of betting shops has been contentious since high street premises became a lot more affordable as the retail industries in general struggled. Whether a cumulative impact test is even possible will be subject of intense debate and, likely, legal challenges.

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