Northumberland joins fight to stop the spread of betting shops

Northumberland County Council is one of 63 local authorities demanding the Government changes the planning law to stop the spread of betting shops.

Bookmakers are classed as A2 financial services, which means they are in the same planning category as banks and estate agents and therefore can into premises without requiring planning permission. They are then easily able to acquire a premise license as the law states councils must ‘aim to permit’ new betting shops.

If successful, the campaign to put betting shops back in their own planning-use class would enable councils to refuse new planning applications from bookmakers.

Local Works, which has amassed the support of 63 councils from across the country, said: “The clustering of betting shops – particularly in poorer areas – has become a significant problem for many communities in recent years.

“The proliferation of betting shops has caused an increase in gambling addiction, leading to family and social breakdown as well as an increase in crime. It is great to see 63 councils joining forces and using the Sustainable Communities Act to address this – now Government has to sit up and listen.”

Bookmakers are limited to four terminals per shop, a regulation that can be circumvented by opening as many outlets as possible, which is what has led to ‘clusters’ of betting shops appearing on the high street, according to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “While putting betting shops back in their own use class is a welcome step in the right direction, at best it will stem the problem of fixed odds betting terminals rather than solve it. To be fully effective, planning reforms should also include a demand test.

“Councils should not have to aim to permit new betting shops either and they should not be subjected to legal challenges when they object.”