When I get two emails about the same issue, it’s a sign there’s a fair bit of unhappiness about it. So I’d be interested to know what you think of Greenwich’s latest retail opportunity…
Ankur was kind enough to get in touch, and asked:
Why is no one talking about the opening of another betting shop (Betfred) on Trafalgar Road? Lewisham Council recently denied planning permission to Betfred on Deptford High Street on the premise that it will have a detrimental effect on the area and the viability of the high street. Does Greenwich Council have no such concerns? Did they consult with residents on this? What is the case for allowing Betfred to open on a stretch that already has Coral and Ladbrokes? This can’t be good for attracting families to HoEG and other developments springing up around the area? Have Greenwich Council given up on revitalising this part of Greenwich?
Gordon Cooper was also good enough to drop me a line. He adds:
What about raising the issue of another giant bookies in East Greenwich? A giant Betfred is opening within close proximity to two other large betting shops.
I had thought there’s wasn’t actually very much Greenwich Council could do about it – the horse, sadly, I guessed had bolted when the site became an amusement arcade five or six years back. I hadn’t heard of a planning application going in, so I assumed Betfred had merely taken over the old planning permission. But no… for a planning application was submitted and approved in March, submitted by a “Pacemanor Limited” to convert the site into premises offering “financial and professional services”.
If 197-199 Trafalgar Road had been a bank – which it was until Barclays closed the Woolwich branch there in the mid-2000s – then Betfred wouldn’t even have needed the planning permission, thanks to a loophole in current legislation surrounding this “financial and professional services” classification.
So who was consulted over the scheme? The three Peninsula Ward councillors and 13 immediate neighbours, but that was all. Otherwise, you would have had to have kept a very close eye on weekly council propaganda paper Greenwich Time, or studied the planning permission lists on the council’s website every week.
Lewisham rejected the Deptford High Street Betfred because of an “over-concentration of betting office uses in the vicinity”. In east Greenwich, there’s been a Corals and Ladbrokes close by for about a decade, but a branch of Coomes closed further down Trafalgar Road about four years ago, and another on Woolwich Road shut earlier this year. So perhaps it would be hard to argue an “over-proliferation” of bookies.
But then again, isn’t three in 100 yards an excess? Until the mid-1990s, there were three banks on that same 100-yard stretch, now there are none. The betting industry’s changing, and neighbourhood bookies like Coomes are going in favour of cluster of betting shops-cum-amusement arcades on high streets.
A similar issue occurred in Blackheath a few months ago, when a McDonnells branch, with an ugly bright red frontage, suddenly appeared a couple of doors up from the Ladbrokes on Westcombe Hill – and across the green from a Coomes/Jennings outlet. Whenever the bookmakers start swooping on a high street, the perception is that the parade must be in decline.
Deptford Dame and Crosswhatfields have extensively covered the issues in SE8, and are essential reading for anyone concerned about this issue. Charity Living Streets has launched a campaign, The Local Joke, to force bookmakers to get planning permission before they can convert premises into betting shops. Although that wouldn’t have helped on this occasion, with Greenwich nodding it through anyway.