Council leaders call for tougher powers to tackle 'blight' of betting shops (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Local Government Association asks for new rules to stop clustering of betting shops in town centres
Councils leaders across London are calling for tougher licensing powers to protect high streets from a 'blight' of betting shops.
The Local Government Assocation (LGA) said rules needed changing in England and Wales to prevent bookmakers being 'clustered' in town centres.
Existing 'restrictive' planning and licensing rules do not allow councils to act on the concerns expressed by members of the local community claims the LGA.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils, said local authorities were "left powerless" when it came to limiting the number of shops opening in a given area.
According to changes in planning laws introduced last year, it has become easier for betting shops to convert existing buidings without the need for planning permission.
In order to take control of the issue, the government must allow councils to assess the negative impact of local economic growth or existing businesses.
The LGA said the number of betting shops in some parts of London had doubled in the past decade.
Tony Page of the LGA licensing committee said:
"Councils aren't anti-bookies but need powers to tackle the damage that can be caused to high streets and town centres by the clustering of betting shops.
"Planning and licensing controls are supposed to ensure new shops or business will benefit an area but the current system is preventing councils from acting on community concerns.
"The result is many of our high streets becoming saturated with betting shops and councils left powerless to act to limit the number opening up in their area.
"Licensing laws must be updated to allow councils to consider the impact a new betting shop would have on their local economy and existing businesses.
"This would protect the power of local communities and democratically-elected councillors to shape their area.
In response to a wave of applications to open betting shops across Waltham Forest, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment councillor Clyde Loakes aims to launch a public-led campaign.
He claims residents no longer want high streets "clogged" with bookies. He also says the number of bookmakers in Waltham Forest has increased by a third in the past five years.
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