‘Stop gambling on our city’

NEWS: News.
NEWS: News.
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Sheffield Council has promised to step up its efforts prevent the city becoming saturated with betting shops.

Leaders look poised to follow in the footsteps of other cities in lobbying central government for more powers for local authorities to control the volume of bookmakers shops.

The authority has promised to ‘explore every avenue’ following a sharp rise in the number of gambling shops buying up empty shops in the city centre.

Most recently William Hill was granted permission to move into a former clothing store on Division Street, despite more than 80 objections – bringing the total number of bookies to 15.

Bookies are thought to be buying up empty premises in bulk in a bid to get around restrictions on fixed-odds betting terminals – at which gamblers can use debit cards to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds – currently limited to four gambling machines in one shop.

Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Association has urged the council to follow the example of London, Liverpool and Preston, which have already campaigned for laws to be tightened up in a bid to protect vulnerable residents.

Linda Cooley, secretary of Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Association, said: “It is robbing independent shops of retail space, changing the character of certain areas and making our city centre less attractive.

“It seems like Sheffield Council has no interest in listening to the electorate on this debate.

“Every application is rubber-stamped with little or no debate, no matter how much opposition has been voiced.”

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “Currently there no clear powers under national planning law which allow us control over where certain licensed premises are sited.

“We are not against betting shops in principle, but we do believe there is a case for councils having more discretion over where they are located and the number of them.

“Along with other cities we are exploring every avenue and considering carefully if there is any legal policy we could put in place that could help us to achieve this, or whether we can ask for more powers from central government.”

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said: “Like many of my constituents, I’m concerned that local councils don’t have the powers to control the proliferation of betting shops, payday lenders and pawnbrokers on our shopping streets.

“We must give councils greater powers to act on behalf of local people in tackling the problem, but the government are changing the rules to make it easier for the betting shops and payday lenders.”