William Hill Organisation, one of the largest betting and gambling companies in the UK (excluding the banks of course) want to open a new betting shop in the area. The local residents signed a petition to oppose. The local council’s planning committee agreed with them and turned down the application. Predictably William Hill have appealed.
A few months ago Newham Council did the same; they lost on appeal. The new style betting shops are proliferating across the UK, along with payday lenders. Gambling Watch UK warns of a generation of younger gambling addicts. Another report questions their link with problem gamblers.
Will the same happen in Walthamstow? Here are the points I’ve made arguing against William Hill and supporting the Council.
- All of the major political parties are making policy statements to increase the degree of local decision taking in respect to their neighbourhoods. Whether called decentralisation, community engagement, participatory democracy or the Big Society, the direction of travel is obvious: a greater degree of local direction. It is quite clear that residents in the area, as well as their elected representatives, do
not want to lose a retail space nor gain another betting shop in the area.
- Betting shops are no longer the betting shops of old: the shop for the flutter on horse and greyhound racing. Their main income and rationale is now gambling, more suited to casinos and the controls which apply to casinos. Fixed Odds Betting Terminals will be installed by the William Hill Organisation should their appeal be successful. They are aptly described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling. These have no place in our neighbourhood which already has an over-supply of gambling/betting outlets.
- There are already seven William Hill shops within a little over a mile of this location, including one already in the same road, according to a search on the Organisation’s own website. They cannot argue that they need another to “serve the area”. There are, of course, even more betting shops in the
same area managed by their competitors: the residents of the area
already have enough outlets. Of course the penetration of betting shops
in a relatively poorer area of London is a sign, along with the payday lenders and pawn brokers,of the ability of the financial services industry to prey on the weakest.
- The location is along the route taken by many young people attending the Waltham Forest College who catch public transport at the Hoe Street/Forest Road crossroads. Putting a betting shop in their path conveys the wrong signal to them.
- Walthamstow, like so many urban centres, is struggling to maintain vibrant and productive high streets and areas. The loss of a retail unit in the cluster of shops around Hoe Street/Forest Road is an unwelcome step. The proximity of the William Morris Gallery, now recognised as Museum of the Year 2013, the renovation of Lloyd Park and of the Bell public house into a family-centred pub, are steps in the positive direction for the regeneration of this area. A betting/gambling shop is not.
Will Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government support local residents, or will he side with big business?
Send your objections, quoting APP/U5930/A/2199214 to email@example.com saying you oppose the appeal by the William Hill Organisation (address of proposed new betting shop is 520/522 Forest Road, Walthamstow). By midnight 5 August!!!!
The deadline has now passed but still send your objections in (they may be accepted or at least the Planning Inspectorate might record them as too late!)
I am sure that this will not the last time a gambling company will seek to open a new outlet in Waltham Forest so keep your eyes open and be ready to organise!