Published: September 29, 2011
Highbridge's Casino Slots wins appeal to extend its opening hours

A controversial gambling arcade in the centre of Highbridge has this week won its appeal against a council ruling that restricts its opening hours.

Businessman Mike Childs, who runs Casino Slots in Market Street, told on Thursday he is "very happy" with the Planning Inspectorate's decision to overturn the district council's decision, allowing him to open until 8pm.

As first reported by in June, Mr Childs won approval to convert the former Highbridge Ink tattoo shop in Market Street into a fruit machine and gaming arcade despite opposition from local residents who feared the business could increase anti-social behaviour.

However, while the application for a change of business use was granted by Sedgemoor District Council, the authority placed several conditions on the business, one of which limited its opening hours to 9am-6pm on Mondays to Saturdays and 10am-4pm on Sundays.

The council said the opening hours had been put in place "to safeguard local residents from noise and disturbance during unsocial hours."

But Mr Childs submitted a formal appeal to the Planning Inspectorate to request that the opening hours be extended into the evening until 8pm.

This week, the Planning Inspectorate's inspector, Rupert Grantham, granted the extension after a lengthy review and a site visit.

Mr Grantham says in his report: "This is an area of mixed use and it is evident that the restrictions, imposed on opening times were expected to appease local residents. Nevertheless, whilst some nearby businesses close at around 5.30pm, others stay open until considerably later. As I saw from my visit to the area, the betting shop which is just a few doors down stays open until 9.30pm, except on Sundays; the convenience store closes at 11pm; and, on Tuesdays to Saturdays, the Italian restaurant remains open until late."

"Evidence suggests that this is an area of the town where the police are working with the community to alleviate problems of anti-social behaviour. Residents living close to the appeal site are already concerned about youngsters who gather under the arch, next to No. 2 Market Street, and who sometimes use the alleyway here as part of a shortcut through to the estate behind."

"However, as the Council noted when considering the application, it is not for them to enforce against anti-social behaviour through a refusal of permission for the premises’ use as an amusement centre."

He added: "Noise from the use itself is unlikely to be disturbing to local residents and I see no reason to believe that allowing the premises to stay open until 8pm, on Mondays to Saturdays, is likely to result in increased noise outside, given the operating times of other businesses nearby."

"These considerations suggest that the 6pm closing time, stipulated in the disputed condition, is not necessary to protect local residents against undue noise or disturbance."

"Nothing I have found outweighs the main considerations that I have outlined and, for the reasons given above, I conclude that the appeal should succeed. I will vary the planning permission by deleting the disputed condition and substituting another which reflects the opening hours now sought by the appellant."

Mr Childs told "I am very pleased about this decision. We have very tight rules in place to limit access and ensure there are no problems. The business has been well supported in recent weeks and yesterday we even had a £1,000 winner."

Burnham and Highbridge Town Council's Planning Applications Committee considered the appeal at its meeting in August when it backed Sedgemoor District Council's restricted opening hours.

Pictured: Top, Staff at the newly opened arcade and, above, some of the residents who opposed the opening of the arcade in Market Street


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