Planning changes will help betting shops, says minister

New planning proposals will make it even easier for betting shops to open on high streets, according to private correspondence from the planning minister.

But critics are concerned this will fuel growth of betting shops which are already blighting local communities.

Nick Boles told Ladbrokes in a private letter that new planning regulations will help them overcome objections from local councils about the spread of betting shops on the high street.

Mr Boles had publicly said the new plans would help revitalise high streets by “cutting red tape” and putting empty shops “back into productive use”.


But the director of Britain’s biggest bookmaker wrote to the Department for Communities and Local Government to complain about the “unfortunate attitude” of some councils, which saw bookmakers as “unacceptable and inappropriate”.

And in response Mr Boles wrote: “I do recognise that this can be a significant problem and we are taking action to tackle it.”

The letter cites new powers contained in the controversial ‘pro-growth’ Bill, which loosens planning regulations for two years.


The Bill, which passed into law this summer, includes new measures to allow shops to switch use to bookmakers without planning permission.

Critics are concerned that this will fuel problem gambling and increase crime in already run-down town centres across Britain.

The Local Government Association warned the changes would result in high streets potentially “overrun with clusters of betting shops and payday loan companies”.


Hilary Benn, the shadow local government minister, obtained the letters under Freedom of Information laws.

He said the Prime Minister was “making it more difficult for communities to stop the proliferation of betting shops and undermining the powers used by councils to force applicants for planning permission to explain the social impact of their changes”.

Earlier this month Liverpool councillors called for extremely addictive high-stake betting machines to be banned from betting shops in the city.


Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion to give city leaders more control over betting shops in the region.

Last month a gambling addict spoke out against high-stake gambling machines, saying he lost a month’s salary in a couple of hours.

And last year a man who lost £16,000 on the machines said they have contributed to the number of “problem gamblers” soaring to nearly half a million.

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