The UK’s high street betting shops have avoided (for now, at least) changes to planning laws that would have seen them subject to a new, separate “use class”. The idea was one of a number of proposals put forward by retail marketing consultant Mary Portas in a government-commission report to revitalise the UK high street.
The introduction of a new “use class” would have made it simpler for local authorities to block or reject planning applications for new betting shops. It was intended that such a move would help reduce the supposed “clustering” of betting shops on the high street in certain areas.
But Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government, stated at the end of March 2012 that the proposal relating to betting shops had been delayed for now and subject to a further review.
Writing in MoneyWeek (Issue 582 30 March 2012) Matthew Lynn offers a forthright opinion for the future of the high street (Allow the high street a dignified death).
He argues: “As more and more shops close down, we can expect plenty of calls for help. The government will be launching enquiries and lobbyists will be arguing for tax breaks and subsidies to keep shops alive. It’s all nonsense. In fact, the high street should be allowed to die a quick and dignified death”.
“There is no worse policy than trying to keep alive a structurally dying industry…Now it’s time for the traditional British high street to be allowed to die”.
“Most town centres were originally a mix of residential, light industrial, commercial and retail space…The best response would be to relax planning laws. As shops shut down, turn the buildings into offices, small factories and workshops, and most of all houses.”
This vision of the new British high street with a mix of premises types would be ideal for betting shops. It would hark back to a time when bookmakers would take bets at the factory gates and when workers would visit the betting shop in their lunch hour before the afternoon’s racing.
The British betting shop has shown its resilience over the decades in the face of the changing nature of the high street, although large numbers have closed since the 1970s .