DCLG denies betting shop bias

The government has denied media reports that it included provisions in recent leglislation to make it easier for betting shops to increase their high street presence.

Betting shops: DCLG denies Hilary Benn's claims
Betting shops: DCLG denies Hilary Benn's claims

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said that correspondence between planning minister Nick Boles and betting shop chain Ladbrokes, uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, showed that the government was privately on the side of the gaming industry.

Benn told The Guardian that his research had yielded a letter from Ladbrokes complaining about councils placing "whatever obstacles they can in the way of our ability to obtain planning permission" which Boles responded to by saying that the government was "taking action to tackle" the situation, citing the Bill as an example.

Part of the Growth and Infrastructure Act allows premises to change from retail to gambling use without the need for planning permission.

Benn said the correspondence showed a gap between a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to act to protect communities, and the actions of ministers.

"These documents show that his ministers have been doing the opposite by making it more difficult for communities to stop the proliferation of betting shops and undermining the powers used by councils to force applicants for planning permission to explain the social impact of their changes," he said.

A statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government said the provisions of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill had been announced in Parliament three months before the letter from Ladbrokes had been received and that it would be "ridiculous and untrue" to suggest that the betting industry had somehow influenced the legislation.

It added that local planning authorities were able to issue Article 4 directions removing permitted development rights in consultation with the local community, and cited work in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham that specifically targeted betting shops.

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