November 29, 2010
raises concerns over 'proliferation' of Burnham betting shops
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
Munt's comments came during a parliamentary debate in the Commons
regarding the future of bookmakers and planning.
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.
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