Labour MP Bill Esterson says another betting shop in Formby Vill

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson outside the new betting shop in Formby Village.

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the fact that another betting shop is set to open in Formby Village was proof that the government's policy on town centre planning was leading to the rapid decline of our high streets. 

He also raised concerns about the impact of more fixed odds betting terminals.

Reacting to news that a David Pluck Betting shop was about to open in the Village - making it the third bookmakers within a small radius - Bill said the rise in betting shops and pay day lenders "taking over" our high streets was as a direct result of Tory-Lib Dem Government policy.

On May 9 last year, the government presented before Parliament The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013. It came into force on May 30.

Bill, who campaigned against the order and signed a Parliamentary Early Day Motion opposing it, said the order was a charter for betting shops to swamp already struggling high streets, like Formby Village. The big concern about the growth in the number of betting shops was their reliance on fixed odds betting terminals for the majority of their profits.

Bill said: "I've campaigned in Parliament and here in Formby and in other parts of my constituency, for local businesses to be given a level playing field with their national competitors to help them survive through these difficult economic conditions so they can continue to provide the valuable local jobs that are needed and contribute to the local economy.

"I have also campaigned alongside local businesses here to encourage people to shop locally and use the Village.

"But the policies of this Tory-Lib Dem Government are making things very difficult for small businesses.

"Their policies have seen the rise and take over of our local high streets by betting shops, Formby Village is another example of that, as is shown by the new betting shop moving in.

"The planning changes that were imposed last year by the government make it easier for betting shops to continue their sprawl along the high streets and makes it harder for councils and communities to have a say in the future of their town centres, which is what is needed if our town centres, like Formby Village, are to survive."

Bill said the rise of betting shops deters shoppers and other businesses from coming into the high street.

Bill said: "We need to attract shoppers into the Village to use the existing businesses and we need new businesses to set up to attract more. It is a virtuous circle, shoppers attract new businesses and new businesses attracts more shoppers. But betting shops can and often do have the opposite effect if there are too many of them. For some local people having a significant number of betting shops suggests that the high street is in decline and it can be off putting. 

"This together with the rise in the use of fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops is a big part of this problem. Many betting shops rely on the machines for their money rather than on horse racing or other sports. And that can lead to problem gambling because of the speed with which people can spend their money on these machines. Assurances from the industry just are not enough. And judging by the experience elsewhere, people visiting betting shops to use fixed odds betting terminals do not visit the other shops so new betting shops do not necessarily help other shop keepers.

"And when a place has too many betting shops it can put off people from shopping there and other retailers from setting up in business. 

"We need to take the opposite approach to the government’s misguided reform and hand more power to local people to shape their high streets and create places where they and their neighbours will shop. This is about balance. Balance between the needs and wishes of the local community and existing traders and between the desire of larger businesses to move in. And a balance for our high streets so that they are attractive places for shoppers and other visitors.

"That's why we need a full review of planning procedures for our high streets and town centres which hands back control of how our community centres evolve back to the community."