Written evidence submitted by Helena Russell (GA 11)

Helena Russell is a local resident and hyperlocal blogger in Deptford, London SE8.

Summary of evidence

My evidence is pertinent to several issues relating to the Gambling Act 2005 and the impact it has had on local residents and businesses in Deptford:

- the relaxation of planning and licensing legislation which makes it more difficult for local authorities and communities to object to new betting shops being established

- the subsequent proliferation and clustering of such establishments, witnessed in Deptford High Street and Evelyn Street (with multiple branches of the same company opening within short distances of one another)

- the loss of two community pubs to betting shops

- the rise in petty crime which has been experienced as a result of the increase in betting shops (my evidence on this is anecdotal)

- the difficulties local communities are experiencing in trying to protect diversity in their shopping parades

1.Deptford High Street

1.1 Since the Gambling Act 2005 was passed, the number of betting shops on Deptford High Street has increased from three to seven, with an eighth planning application under appeal at time of writing.

1.2 In the last 14 months we have lost TWO community pubs – the Deptford Arms on Deptford High Street and the John Evelyn on Evelyn Street – both of which are now Paddy Power shops. The Deptford Arms was one of only two pubs remaining on the whole of Deptford High Street.

1.3 Premises on Deptford High Street shown below. (Not printed)

1.4 Five of the seven betting shops are clustered in one end of the High Street – Paddy Power is on the corner of one side road and faces Ladbrokes on the other corner, with Coral a few doors away and Better Bet a little further along.

1.5 Betfred applied to open the eighth high street betting shop in a former building society premises, this application was turned down and is currently being appealed. It is worth noting that, under the Gambling Act 2005, this application would not have had to be made – it was only on account of the fact that the existing planning permission stated that the premises should be occupied by a building society, that Betfred had to apply for a variation.

1.6 Under current legislation, bookmakers are free to set up premises in former banks, building societies or pubs without any need to apply for planning permission. It seems that they are targeting such premises deliberately (in particular community pubs, some of which are taking time to adapt to their own changing circumstances). Neither of the pubs which were lost in Deptford had closed prior to being taken over by Paddy Power.

1.7 Gambling licence applications are now the responsibility of local authorities, rather than magistrates, and again, the grounds for refusing such licences are very limited.

2.0 Multiple branches.

We also note that in some cases, bookmakers have opened multiple branches within short distances of one another (William Hill, Paddy Power and Coral in our case) which enables them to increase their income from Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, the number of which is restricted to four on each premises.

3.0 Sustainable communities

Despite strong opposition from local residents and businesses to the presence of more betting shops, the council has found very limited grounds on which to help residents protect their community facilities. In many cases the odds are stacked against these people and their support for local shopping, in favour of multi-national businesses which bring limited benefits to local communities. Residents feel that the high street has sufficient betting shops and we should be protecting the food shops, clothes shops, banks, newsagents, cafes, and so on which contribute to a diverse and sustainable community.

4.0 Petty theft and anti-social behaviour

Local businesses, especially those close to the betting shop clusters, have noted a rise in petty theft and anti-social behaviour. Known drug dealers and street drinkers gather outside these betting shops on a daily basis, creating an unpleasant and sometimes threatening atmosphere for shoppers. Children from a number of local schools pass along the high street at lunchtime and after school and are exposed to such behaviour on a regular basis.

Additional information relating to the situation in Deptford is available here:

July 2011

Prepared 17th August 2011