The controversial proposal to turn the old Lloyds Bank in Staple Hill High Street into a betting shop have been approved by South Gloucestershire councillors.
There are already two bookmakers nearby – Backhouse Bet and William Hill. Over 200 objections were received, including from the local Chamber of Trade, about BoyleSports (UK) Ltd’s plans for a new betting shop in the old bank, which has stood empty since 2019.
Cllr Ian Boulton, who represents Staple Hill, addressed Thursday’s meeting of the development management committee on behalf of objectors and began by highlighting that BoyleSports’ consultants had submitted a report explaining how the proposal “would contribute to the economic growth of Wakefield city centre”.
He said: “We are advised by the applicant that the economic impact report provided for Wakefield was a drafting error and should be considered as a ‘generic assessment’. We take the application on face value and do not assume that this was a mistake and reach our conclusion on the basis of that submission as provided.
Bookmakers William Hill and Backhouse Bet, below, are close by
“A generic assessment which compares a city centre like Wakefield against a suburban High Street like Staple Hill only highlights how this report is probably even more meaningless in this context, regardless of whether the referral to Wakefield was an oversight or not.”
Cllr Boulton continued: “We know of local entrepreneurs who have been interested in this property but also organisations who have been working with the council for some time to source a suitable unit in the neighbourhood to no avail.
“The applicant suggests that this unit has been available on the open market, however we are advised that, due to legal issues that needed to be finalised by the previous tenant, it has only ever been offered on the public market as a possible short-term let ‘pop up’ shop without the opportunity to take on a long-term lease enabling occupiers to properly invest in this property.”
He said the site is within feet of two other licensed betting shops and in the most deprived Local Super Output Area in South Gloucestershire “where poverty is a real issue and gambling is a genuine concern”.
“Today we are told in the update that no issues of anti-social behaviour have been reported in connection with our local betting shops in the last three and a half years, of which two were in lockdown, and this is something I am not surprised with as the community has had an active and successful campaign to tackle ASB in Staple Hill. However, I should say that litter outside our betting shops is a disproportionate and ongoing issue and South Gloucestershire Council currently has CCTV cameras in place monitoring this very issue in the vicinity of our existing premises.”
Recommending the plans for approval, the council’s planning team said that Staple Hill High Street has a good mix of shops and another betting shop would not result in a “negative clustering”. It would bring back into use vacant floor space and wound not harm Staple Hill’s vitality and vibrancy, nor affect neighbouring residents.
The committee was reminded by a planning officer that betting shops are lawful “whether we like them or not”.
A majority of committee members approved the plans and a separate application for advertisement consent. For each application five councillors were in favour and three abstained.