Kingston councillors' delight as Government announces stricter controls on betting shops
Politicians in Kingston have welcomed news that the Government is to give extra powers to local councils to control the influx of betting shops into high streets.
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce tougher planning restrictions for gambling firms later this week, including the introduction of a new planning class for betting shops.
The new rules will allow local authorities to reject betting shop applications if it is deemed there are already too many in a certain area.
Councillors in Kingston have previously called for greater powers to turn down applications, amid fears town centres are being overrun by bookmakers.
Betting shops are currently classed in the same category as banks, building societies and estate agents, allowing them to move into empty financial buildings without a planning application.
While some commentators believe the Government’s move is an attempt to overshadow Labour leader Ed Milliband’s promise to crackdown on bookmakers, councillors believe the change is a victory for local government.
Kingston Council leader Liz Green said: “The Lib Dems on the Local Government Association have been lobbying to say we should have a new planning class for betting shops.
“It isn’t the same as a financial institution – there’s a massive difference.
“We want to be able to control what goes on the high street to prevent one particular type of business taking over.
“It sounds like this is exactly what we were asking for. It sounds like central Government has actually listened to us in local Government - which is a surprise.”
Conservative leader Howard Jones, who tabled a motion back in October calling for greater planning controls over betting shops, said: “I think it is one of those things that all parties are in favour of.
“We did lots of lobbying of ministers and I’m delighted central Government has acted.
“It proves local councils can have an impact on legislation.”
A Local Government Association spokesman said: “It’s been quite a determined effort over the last few months, and it looks like it may have paid off.”
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We know that lots of people are worried about the numbers of betting shops that have sprung up on their high streets in recent years.
“It is only right to give local communities the power to object to a new betting shop if they feel they already have too many on their doorstep, the balance has to be right.”
Under the new laws, gambling operators applying for a licence will also have to show how they would protect gamblers, such as messaging in windows.
Full details of the new rules will be announced on Wednesday.
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