The site lay within a primary shopping frontage, but the inspector noted that it contained a roughly equal mix of retail and service uses. His mid-week visit to the centre suggested that the centre was busy despite the impact of Covid-19. The premises had been marketed for 12 months while a retail use had been sought and no interest had been identified. The government was planning greater flexibility in the use of retail premises in existing centres, and whilst the bingo hall was sui generis in nature and did not fall within the planned changes, the inspector nonetheless agreed that the planned changes to the use classes order 1987 was a material consideration.
In the inspector's opinion it would increase footfall, bringing back into use a vacant unit and adding to the evening economy, since the centre would be open 24 hours a day. Nor was he persuaded that the proposal would materially increase the risk of gambling within the local population. The ward did have an over-representation of residents susceptible to problem gambling but there was no clear link that the change of use would make this worse.
Inspector: Edwin Maund; Written representations