The former Lloyds Bank in Staple Hill
PLANS for a new betting shop in Staple Hill have been approved, despite more than 200 objections.
South Gloucestershire Council’s development management committee granted permission for the change of use of the former Lloyds Bank building, which has been empty since the branch shut in 2019, into a BoyleSports bookies at a meeting in January.
Members said they were worried about gambling addiction but there were no valid planning grounds to reject the application, despite objections from 216 people.
Staple Hill & Mangotsfield ward councillor Ian Boulton, who wrote a detailed objection to the plan, said there were already two other bookies yards away, in an area where “poverty is a real issue and gambling a genuine concern”.
He said: “Studies have found an association between problem gambling and poverty.
“The high street is vibrant and that hasn’t happened by accident – there is a lot of work put in to make it a vibrant and diverse high street.”
Cem Kosaner, town planning director at BoyleSports’ agents Lichfields, told councillors the scheme was “entirely in accordance” with the council’s development plan.
He said: “Your officers conclude that the introduction of a betting office would not harm the vitality and viability of the centre, because the proposal would bring back into beneficial use a long-term vacant unit.
“It would complement existing uses along High Street. It would contribute towards the evening economy, owing to the extended hours of opening.”
Mr Kosaner said betting offices increase town centre footfall, with customers “going on to spend money in nearby shops and on services”.
Committee member and Staple Hill & Mangotsfield ward councillor Michael Bell said that was unlikely, as the shop’s customers “would stay in the betting shop all day”.
He said the business was “not going to enhance Staple Hill at all” and the premises would be better used as a community shop.
But council officers, who recommended the plans be approved, told committee members: “The merits of gambling are not a material planning consideration.”
Committee member and Emersons Green ward councillor Colin Hunt said: “Many of the objections put forward are nothing to do with planning.
“No matter what we think about betting shops – personally I hate them and I don’t believe in gambling – we can only judge what is before us, and that’s the planning application.”
Frampton Cotterell ward councillor Tristan Clark said: “I am sympathetic to the concerns raised by residents in high numbers but we can only judge it based on the policies in front of us, and they make no provision for us to turn this down based on the harms given.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service