Plans for a third betting shop in Staple Hill are being recommended for approval despite a groundswell of local opposition.
The controversial plans to turn the old Lloyds Bank in the High Street into a betting shop have prompted 216 objections to South Gloucestershire Council.
BoyleSports (UK) Limited want to change the use of the premises – vacant since Lloyds closed the branch in 2019 – but there are already two bookmakers within sight of the former bank (Backhouse Bet and William Hill) and fears have been raised about the impact of another betting shop in one of the most economically deprived areas of South Gloucestershire.
Local councillor Ian Boulton has successfully requested that the decision be made by the development management committee, rather than delegated to a planning officer.
He said as well as “massive local opposition” to the plan, the economic impact has not been properly assessed with BoyleSports’ supporting document being ‘lifted’ from an assessment of Wakefield town centre with no relation to the uniqueness of Staple Hill, and so should be disregarded as irrelevant.
He said: “If the committee is minded to approve this application an independent economic impact report should be commissioned with particular regard to the context of a third betting shop within such an economically deprived area has serious implications on the lives of vulnerable residents within the neighbourhood and the regeneration and economic viability of Staple Hill High Street.
“The applicant’s claim that ‘there is little conclusive evidence that the proposal would, individually or collectively, result in harm to people’s health and education, or prevent them from leading healthy and active lifestyles’ would appear to be disingenuous at best and a simple Google search will find plenty of well-sourced arguments to the contrary for anyone who cares to investigate this.
“The planning application states that the property has been empty for some time and this establishment will bring this property back into use, however this property has never been made available on the open market. The Staple Hill Chamber of Trade are aware of a number of unique businesses that are keen to invest in Staple Hill High Street as soon as suitable units become available. These businesses would also provide inward investment to the location and would also provide a number of full-time and part-time roles, as well as supporting employment indirectly in the wider locality for services and goods however unlike this application they would improve on the diverse offering and viability of our valuable High Street.”
The report from the council’s planning officer says that a good mix of shops is represented on Staple Hill High Street and having three betting shops would not be a negative clustering of this type of premises.
It concludes: “The proposal would bring back into use vacant floor space, would ensure that an active ground floor frontage is maintained, there would be not loss of any retail or main town centre uses and it would not harm the vitality, vibrancy and function of the centre.”
What objectors say
Here is a selection of comments from objectors:
“A new betting shop will not enhance the diversity of the high street and in the current economic climate it is immoral to support these activities.”
“I object to another betting shop opening where there are already two. Betting blights lives and families. We should be encouraging businesses to open that improve the area and contribute to our local community, not suck money and soul out of it.”
“I would hope that South Gloucestershire Council have a better vision for the future of Staple Hill and its residents than to approve this application.”
“People who use a betting shop are men and do not go shopping after placing a bet. Wake up South Glos Council, we need businesses that will keep footfall in the high street.”
“I personally would rather see it left derelict than see another betting shop.”