CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has called for councils to be given stronger powers to stem the numbers of betting shops popping up on high streets in North Wales.
The AM said the recent closure of major retail stores such as Peacocks, Game and JJB Sports as well as scores of small independent shops on the High Street risked more Betting shops opening up in their place.
The AM said local councils needed to have stronger planning powers to restrict their numbers in disadvantaged areas.
A report last year for the High Streets First campaign said more than a third of betting shops in Wales are in the most deprived communities.
CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES AM said:
“In the last year alone we have seen major retail players such as Clinton Cards, Blacks, Peacocks, Game and JJB Sports all disappear form the High Street, in addition to the recent problems HMV and Blockbuster have suffered. Added to this, scores of small independent shops have also closed their doors.
“The risk is that in the next few months and years these vacant properties will be taken up by betting shops, which prey on vulnerable communities and disadvantaged areas hit hard by unemployment and joblessness.
“In areas like Wrexham, as it is across North Wales, High Streets are more than just a collection of shopping outlets, they form part of the soul of the town. We can’t let the high street become clustered with these addictive betting shops.
“A recent report I did as part of the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee highlighted that vacant sites in our Town Centres now account for 11.5% of all High Street premises, a figure indeed higher than the overall UK average.
“Planning rules need to be changed to allow local authorities in North Wales to stop the excessive spread of betting shops and the clustering of outlets in run down high streets.
“All too often in North Wales you find a row of bookmakers, empty shops and loan companies on a high street, with very little diversity in between. It represents a very unappealing offer to potential investors and seriously affects the way people see their own high street.
“Often this happens because planning rules allow stores with the same ‘use’ license to replace a similar store. So when a café, shop or bank closes in my constituency a new one can open up regardless of the numbers of similar such outlets nearby.
“At the moment bookmakers fall into the same category as banks, which are financial services so it means these facilities can be changed into betting shops without our democratically elected local authorities having a say. This must change.”