In this article Andy Woods looks at the impact of The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2015 and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, both of which came into force on 15 April 2015.
I have written many articles and spoken at many conferences on the impact of the Gambling Act 2005 on Betting Offices. I have regularly faced questions at Licensing Committee hearings from both objectors and Councillors on to the number of betting offices on a particular high street or the impact of betting offices on a particular high street.
The Daily Mail newspaper has continued to express its own views on betting offices – views which have been taken up by a number of politicians and councillors in their opposition to betting offices generally. However, despite a plethora of newspaper articles and “comments” about the adverse impact of betting offices generally – there has still not been any clear evidence supporting the opposition to betting offices and the number of betting offices in the UK had reduced in recent years.
The Government (whichever party is in charge) is fearful of touching the Gambling Act 2005 and sees any political debate as a “no win” situation. After months of speculation Planning legislation has been changed as of 15 April 2015, which will have an impact on the Betting Industry in England. All new betting offices will require a specific planning permission and have been taken out of a general ‘A2’ financial and professional service use class. Under the previous legislation a betting office fell in the same category as an estate agent / bank / restaurant etc. and did not require a change of use application. This is not now the case.
There were transitional provisions in place to cover the process of conversion to use as a betting office but the transitional period was incredibly short and only lasted up until 15 April 2015. If an operator has a Betting Premises Licence in place before 15 April 2015 then they would have a period of three years up to 15 April 2018 to open the betting shop and trade the premises. It seems very surprising that this transitional period did not even cover the 28 day period which is the consultation time for a new Betting Premises Licence Application. I represent clients who had submitted an application for a Betting Premises Licence prior to the implementation of the new legislation, but their betting premises licence will not be granted until after 15 April 2018.
The new planning legislation will clearly impact to a certain extent on the industry. It is important to note, however, that the planning legislation does not prevent “change of use” and the Planning Authorities will have to process applications in the usual way and applications will be the subject to the usual considerations. There is no “need or demand test” – there is no reference in the legislation to a “concentration or cluster” of betting offices to be a reason for refusal and there is no limit in planning terms on the number of machines allowed in certain areas.
Any application for change of views to a betting shop will be decided on the individual merits of each case and subject to the local authority policy. I have no doubt that a number of “change of use” applications will be refused by local authorities who do not want any more betting offices. We will have to wait to see how those refusals are dealt with on appeal before the new planning legislation settles down.
Should you require any further information please contact me at Andrew@woodswhur.co.uk or on 07738 170138.