Published: November 29, 2010
MP raises concerns over 'proliferation' of Burnham betting shops

Burnham-On-Sea's MP has spoken out in the House of Commons about her concerns over the 'proliferation of betting shops' in the town and called for local authorities to have more power to decide where such businesses are located.

Tessa Munt's comments came during a parliamentary debate in the Commons regarding the future of bookmakers and planning.

She urged the government to consider new nationwide legislation to allow local authorities to insist that bookmakers are situated at first-floor level or above, away from prominent High Street locations, to protect youngsters from gambling.

During the debate, she said: "Burnham-On-Sea, in common with probably most town centres and high streets, suffers from a proliferation of betting shops. On the coast, there are also a number of gaming machine shops specifically dedicated to that kind of activity."

"Surely, there must be a way, either in the localism Bill or perhaps by local authorities arriving at a definition of what they want, of allowing local authorities to insist that these kinds of shops are situated at first-floor level or above."

"That would get rid of the problem of people, especially young people, passing along a High Street and seeing the enormous shop fronts which the Honourable Gentleman has complained about. If we put those businesses on the first or second floor or above, they would need to find ways for people to access them under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but we would be left with only a shop doorway."

Bob Neill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, responded by referring to calls for local authorities to have more power over where new bookmakers are located.

He said: "It is important to have a planning system that balances the need to allow business to grow with protections for the community from negative impacts of development."

"We must also remember that we often have to deal with business uses that are controversial but also lawful, and a balance has to be struck in those cases as well. The planning process seeks to ensure that our communities get the right type of development, located in the right location, to maximise benefits for everyone and, as far as possible, prevent negative impacts."

He added: "While I accept that in some cases difficulties can arise, I do not think it necessary to consider whether a national approach would be proportionate when there is no evidence to suggest that the proliferation of betting shops is a widespread problem that requires national legislation."

But Ms Munt replied: "I beg to differ, given the quantity of casework with which I deal involving increasingly younger groups of people who have to search for help from the citizens advice bureau and various Christian organisations because of disproportionate amounts of debt that originated from gambling."

She stressed during the debate that she does not believe piers should be included in any change to the legislation. "On a pier, there is often a discrete area where people might expect to see such activity taking place. I assume that piers will not fall within the general conditions relating to high streets and town centres," she said.

Our photos show Burnham's Bet Fred bookmaker in College Street and William Hill shop in Victoria Street and MP Tessa Munt


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