Welcome to Camberwell: land of betting shops

On Saturday a new branch of Bet Fred opened at 62 Denmark Hill, SE5 in the premises between Peacocks and …Etc that were formerly a jewellers.

So another betting shop opens in Camberwell town centre: a cause for celebration?

Err no — by my reckoning this is the eighth or ninth betting shop in the area. It is also the second Bet Fred shop — there seem to be no plans to close the original shop near the Green.

A multitude of betting shops is, in my opinion, not good for the area as they aren’t actually very useful for the majority of the population. Unless you want to place a bet they offer no services which are of value to local people. A large number of betting shops do  not promote a diverse, sustainable high street where people want to shop but instead drive people away.

Interestingly I see that Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman has published a well researched report on this matter — available to download on her website — in which she analyses the problem and cites evidence that the betting shop chains target poorer areas such as Camberwell as, counter-intuitevely these are more profitable for them. Harman also cites evidence showing an increase in anti-social behaviour as a result of the increase in betting shops. This is in addition to any personal cost to those involved in gambling.

Harman suggests that the problems arise because of planning regulations which allow former banks and similar premises to reopen as betting shops without any change of planning use required.

It seems that in our case Southwark is helping the betting shops along by not merely tolerating betting shops but encouraging their proliferation by  granting change of use planning permission without too much concern: looking at the documents surrounding this planning applicaion it seems there was little consideration given to how a change of use from A1 (retail) to A2 (financial services including betting shops) would impact on Camberwell — they seem to accept Hinds’ argument that the shopping area is in decline and so the only thing to do is to replace useful shops offering good and services with betting shops. If we want to revitalise Camberwell and make it into a sustainable town centre to which local people travel for shopping purposes this increase in the number of betting shops needs to stop.

40 thoughts on “Welcome to Camberwell: land of betting shops”

  1. We need to encourage and nurture community-led macro-economics to encourage independent businesses to thrive in our town centres and actively discourage them from becoming overrun by betting shops,junk food outlets and off licences. These 3 are the main culprits for their decline. Such a high concentration in a small area creates anti-social behaviour, health problems (alcoholism,diabetes,heart/liver/kidney disease,obesity,stomach cancer,tooth decay) to name just a few — just ask staff at Kings College Hospital. Also bankrupcy/money problems which can impact severely on family life.

    Another betting shop — Ladbrokes is also currently opening opposite Barclays Bank near East Street Market on Walworth Road.

    I would think that the Labour Party is supposed to be the option we look to for this type of initiative. Perhaps the unregulated, free market world that we live in ensures that local politics makes very little difference to the way this and other town centres develop — regardless of the party in charge.

    However, the least they can do is make a maximum effort to try and mould our communities in a positive direction — regardless of the current central economic policy.

    Camberwell & Walworth has been a safe Labour seat for 50+ years.

  2. Huh. I rest the case I was making to Monkeycat several years ago on the corner outside the Hermit’s.

    Pawn shops, betting shops — designed to make very poor people even poorer — are our future in spite of the glimmers like Angels & Gypsies, the Tiger, the Bear, Wuli Wuli and Crooked Well. Sorry to any place I’ve overlooked… Oh, and Albatross.

    It’s not right. It’s WRONG.

    And collectively WE just let it happen without a fuss.

    “We’ve got loads of ways to help you raise money instantly” responsible lending in a neighbourhood near YOU.

  3. I’d love a good mix of shops in Camberwell but I don’t expect to see it in my time here. Whilst I expect the Mary Portas report is mostly sensible stuff (business rent rises by the council seem extortionate?!!), one of the recommendations being highlighted — charging for parking in retail parks is a desperate measure. Not that I ever use retail parks because they are depressing. Moreover, I’m disinclined to consume as much as possible whilst global debt has gone exponential. If this helps drive a stake into the heart of our insolvent banks and their many servants in both the Tory and Labour party (sadly) then happy days.

    I do use some excellent local shops and services — chemist; dry cleaners; pubs; restaurants; library for kid’s books; Co-op & Morrison’s for their wine — to name a few. However, my main supermarket shop is Asda in Old Kent road or Ocado when I’m way too busy (you don’t have to buy premium ranges and cuts). Most other things I buy online.

    Shops simply reflect the area they serve and the stage of gentrification it is in. If you want charming independent shops you seem to have to price poor people out of the area. And of course one day you’ll be priced out yourself. Not that anyone expects Butterfly Walk to turn into the Burlington arcade any time soon. But it would be interesting to hear if anyone knows of a utopian place with the perfect blend of people and shops?

    As a quick fix, I do think that the council misses a trick by making parking difficult and expensive. That’s one reason why Lordship Lane is so popular.

  4. There’s a new shop opened in Camberwell that looks like it might be a Deli. It’s on Denmark Hill, next door to Pizza Hut, the old shop sign advertising it as an Accountancy Business Centre doesn’t make this obvious.

    The health food store a few doors down looks no closer opening since a bus crashed into it which, by my reckoning, was about 6 months ago now.

  5. @ Mark Dodds: Mary Portas is on the Today programme saying how Camberwell is totally beyond saving.

    ‘You may as well accept this now and move to Barnsley”

    Did she really say that? Has she been to Barnsley? I was there last week and for the price of Jenny Agutter’s Georgian town house you could buy most of Barnsley. Nice place though, people are very friendly, and the chips are really very good.

    Seriously, couldn’t agree more about the shameful proliferation of betting shops and pawnbrokers. No point blaming Dave theVeto because Blair was just as bad at making it easy for these wretched places to open.

  6. Have you been to the churchyard recently? There are lessons to be learned there. It is a most tranquil if lonely spot!

    A large tree has been downed, pulled down, looks like. The roots — some quite rotten — and stump have been left to decay naturally. All around the perimeter of the churchyard, long-neglected gravestones lining the walls remind us that within four generations, we will all be forgotten by family, friends, everyone.

    Mary Portas is wrong to single out Barnsley, indeed, where the same process is happening as here. In fact Camberwell probably has far more and more varied independent shops. You should never slag off any one place, not even Barrow-in-Furness or Rickmansworth. Inevitably you find that some fashion gnu grew up there and has a statue of themselves in the town centre.

    The roots of the tree stump yield fascinating finds — old coins, fragments of jewellery, the occasional bone…

  7. Deffo agree that you should never single out a place for criticism. Not even St Albans or Tunbridge Wells.

    By the way, why are betting shops worse than pubs? Is it just because pubs are now too expensive to make money from poor people?

  8. Hmmm. Mark, I think you were listening to a different report.

    By the way you can here it here from 2hrs 33mins 58secs


    Specifically, Camberwell wasn’t mentioned, and what she said is that we need reasons for people to come to the shops. Do agree with Mary Portas’ claim that we need to find other reasons to come to the high street. Thankfully, to a certain degree, Camberwell already has them. Could do better though.

    Having recently been up in Salford and the high steet there really was grim.

    We, by comparison are blooming lucky.

    We do have way too many betting shops, but we also have lots of other things as well. I visit Morrisons and Coop about once a month, and that’s only to get the few things you can’t get elsewhere.

    If you bother to go into them, the independent shops of Camberwell Church St and Denmark Hill have almost everything you can get in a chain or supermarket, but cheaper.

    Just because it’s not a posh butchers or bakers or whatever, doesn’t mean it’s not a good and successful shop. I can highly recommend the United Super Store (Or Africa Shop as we call it) by the bus stop on Camberwell Church St. They’ve got everything and cheaper by far than the supermarkets. And they are the friendliest shopkeepers I know.

    RE the difference between pubs and betting shops. Pubs can provide a space from home, can be sociable and can be for the whole family, can have a positive effect on the community and can give something back to the community. Can’t really describe a betting shop that way.

  9. Betting shops take and never give back while making a very few low life gangster people into £multi-millionares with homes all over the world and yachts and butlers.

    Most pubs are controlled by the same type of low life gangsters who are taking sure bets on asset stripping the nation’s heritage and its community fabric by scamming the licensees, their customers, the exchequer and the taxpayer.

    The licensees at least do try to put back into their communities and provide an anchor point for other types of retail to get a foothold — when the conditions are amenable.

  10. Went to Hotel Elephant today. It’s full of paintings and prints for sale.

    Good stuff…

    Rueben Powell is the man who set it up and whose work is on display at the moment. If you’ve been to Southwark’s Tooley Street HQ you may well know his work already; Rueben was commissioned by Southwark to paint a huge cityscape of the Elephant & Castle redevelopment area for the reception of the building.


  11. Business? Brief visit — walked swiftly across the wobbly bridge to get warm — to the peace camp by St Paul’s today. They have a bookshop/information tent called TENT CITY UNIVERSITY. Bought two books for a donation — value on Amazon is 40 quid. They need stock — will take some. This is the future — capittalism, church and social anthropologists side by side with the occasional visit of chancers from Camberwell.

    Austerity = opportunity.

  12. They have a good set up at Tent City don’t they. If they could lay on a cup of tea for visitors it would really gather some support and sympathy.

    I’m on the 171 tonight. It’s a good bus to get home from Covent Garden. Quick enough at this time of night.

  13. RE tea/lunch/snacks at Tent City — these are already available from the kitchen tent where you can get a stew / bread / butter / soup / tea / coffee for free if you are churlish enough — they don’t even demand a donation.

    I had lunch there with my boys a fortnight ago. Very tasty, thick vegetable soup with a range of great breads to dunk.

    I put five quid in which is a bit shy of 10% of a week’s money I get through JobSeeker’s ‘allowance’. That seemed like a small amount given the circumstances.

  14. Ah, I was up there early on. Water was in short supply. Sounds like you over-donated, proportionaly speaking. You can live well on low money but you got to take the breaks as you find them.

    How did your kids find it?

  15. Half a skull. The tree stump and roots in St Giles churchyard have yielded up a macabre secret. “That looks like an interesting old pot,” the passing situationist muses.

    On inspection, the inside scored by tell-tale, river-delta-like markings, this was a forehead plus half the cranium. The texture was just like old terracotta, with a porous interior.

    What this fellow needs is another life, the thought offered itself. So secreting it in a carrier bag, one walked on whistling, ignoring the haw! haw! of the crows.

    Filing round the outside to make a perfectly round-rimmed bowl, old Arfur (as he is now called in our house — “Arfur Skull”) was then sprayed with metallic silver automotive aerosol paint to seal it and provide a cheery, antique appearance.

    Now our festive guests are greeted with the Pickwickian injunction, “Please drink from Arfur, our Yuletide toast bowl — there it is on a wooden plinth on the table. You must! You must! It is a tradition in old Camberwell to keep a pewter bowl for winter wassails and the like — please swig the dark, hearty mix of mulled wine with brandy, molasses and liquorice — each bowl must have a Christian name related to the family — so as the darkest night approacheth, here’s to Arfur and absent friends, unavoidably detained elsewhere!” And the merry cry goes up,


    And our littlest pipes up,

    “Unavoidably detained elsewhere!”

  16. @ Dagmar, you probably know this but it seems that next Thursday, 22 December, is Winter solstice, Midwinter, the longest night of this year.

    @Gabe: the boys were self conscious at first and, I think, a bit intimidated by the scenario but once they started on the stew they got comfortable and even asked for more. This was helped by us bumping into a couple of people, Frederick and Paul, who we know from Camberwell even though they aren’t locals and they don’t know each other. It’s my fifth visit to Tent City and each time there’s been some SE5 connections. I like that.

    The Christmas Farmers’ Market on Camberwell Green is this Saturday by the way. Why not come and have a look round and while you’re about it join SE5 Forum.

  17. I don’t buy into the “It could be worse, we could be living in Barnsley mentality”

    It’s disrespectful to the place and people that are the comparison

    - each place has it’s own merits or pros/cons

    I live in London — Otherwise, I could easily go and live in a small provincial city on the Atlantic coast of Spain where nothing much changes but the people are greatful for any minor development — and at least the food is good and the climate slightly more agreeable — which sort of compensates for the drop in salary — but not much.

    It would be easy to do that but not for the moment because I expect BETTER. I expect more from this great city of Londinium.

    Otherwise what exactly is the point of being here? 😉

  18. firstly @florian I LOVE TOTNES! it holds many a heart warming memory of my childhood holidays in the caravan!

    re: camberwell and betting shops — its just sole destroying, there are so many people making an effort to better the area and then another betting shop or chicken coop opens up!
    all i can say for hope and inspiration is how over the last 12 ‑18 months bellenden road has tranformed! this could be church street! when the library moves that 3 shops that could become something great! whats happening to Pauls olive shop?
    we can still change it! we can do it, but how do we do it?

  19. i’m sure it was delightful then. Now it is full of smug eco Dartington types flogging spirit catchers, drum therapy and sundry snake oils.

    anyone know when Burgess reopens? i’m missing it terribly.

  20. Burgess Park is not opening till May or June now. Officially, this is because of the fuel tanks that were discovered on the west side of the park. These needed removing and the soil around them had to be decontaminated. This doesn’t really explain why the east side seems to be behind schedule too though.

    According to the original timetable, the work was supposed to be pretty much wrapped up by Christmas, with the plants having the rest of the winter and early spring to establish themselves before the planned opening date. However, I am told that as they missed the late autumn deadline for seeding and planting, they now have to wait until early spring before this can take place and it will still take a couple of months before the park can reopen.

    I was also told that there won’t be any more delays and that the park will not open any later than June.

    The delay is obviously a bit annoying, but there has been a huge amount of work going on in the park. More than I had really expected. In fact, I think it was even more than the contractors had expected because the amount of rubble and partially demolished structures buried under the old park has been pretty amazing and taken a lot of time to sort though with their huge diggers and giant soil sieve.

    On the positive side, the lake is looking great. The new earth bank edges make it look much more natural and should be great for wildlife.

  21. @James J, Id love a shop like that in camberwell! labour and wait esq shops and something a bit more individual than a barbers, fast food and betting shops!
    @florian such a shame! was going to go back for a reminiscent weekend! not sure now!

  22. @Frazzle

    “I’d love a shop like that in camberwell!”

    Ahhh! Well it’s lucky that it already exists…opposite the Pasha Hotel just before the Junction with Bowyer Place — I’ve bought some Loake Chelsea Boots from there — it’s so nice to deal with a proprietor who knows their onions!

    @James J

    I’m not dissapointed about Burgess Park opening in June — I had already factored that outcome into my mental calculations!

    I find it is always wise to stick 2–3 months on top of official opening dates 😉

    Let’s hope they do such a great job that further grants — will be forthcoming in future years.

  23. The current William Hill trade magazine has a cartoon depicting a man from the council being rebuked by a Hill’s manager for trying to close down the last surviving business in a row of shops.

    In another magazine of a different nature, “Mslexia”, the magazine “for women who write”, our own, irrepressible Stella Duffy writes fascinatingly about Theodora the 6th-Century bear-keeper’s daughter who became an Orthodox saint. “I knew she would be my next book,” she says, which it was, “Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore”. Well done, Mrs Duffy!

    Our own Jenny Agutter supports the hardcore, ex-offenders charity the St Giles Trust in Camberwell Church Street.

    The half skull has disappeared from the roots of the upturned tree in St Giles churchyard as mysteriously as it appeared. It actually was there, now it’s not. Maybe someone bunged it in the hole for a joke or to scare off the odd, passing situationist.

    Maybe it was the same comedians who pinched the Barbara Hepworth bronze from Dulwich Park.

    Tonight is the winter solstice, the longest night. Let’s hope everything will be all right. Just when the heebie-jeebies seize us, we are saved by baby Jesus.

    The Royal Mail’s Xmas stamps are mysterious this year. The first class bears witness to MATTHEW 1.23, the verse that states that he shall be called Emmanuel; whilst the humble second class bears MATTHEW 1:23, a verse that says he will be called Jesus. So the market-savvy Royal Mail charges more for the rather posher Emmanuel.

    You would think, however, that God would be consistent. But as Tammy Wynette so memorably said, “After all, he’s just a man”.

  24. Just to say Merry Xmas and best wishes for the New Year.

    As festive gifts I offer you these recent insights and tips:

    - Wuli Wuli now does Sichuanese hotpots. It’s not on the menu though it is in Chinese on the front window. Please don’t tell those sodding food bloggers.

    - Note the battery recycling point in Morrisons. Also one for plastic bags.

    - I’ve seen several car windows smashed in over the past fortnight. Watch out.

    - Pig’s trotter at Crooked Well recently was the worst thing I’ve eaten in ages. I think they’ve taken it off the menu now.

    - Zeret Kitchen was an informal treat. Tasty and different, with a charming host. Recommended.

    - Cowling and Wilcox is a good place for a last-minute Xmas gift. An expanded range of options for kids. I saw Jenny Agutter there last time too.

    - Tadim’s is struggling again, unfortunately. But the £1 carrot juice in Falafel makes a nice and healthy change.

    I shall now return to my retirement.

    Seasons greetings from your friendly friend, Phil G

  25. Ah! Yes;

    A Happy Christmas to All …

    Great to see Phil G back out of retirement for a flurry. And to see festive cheer manifest so clear on the site of choice for Camberwell Lovers.

    I feel compelled to point out that the article James J linked to above IS ABOUT THE EXISTING shoe shop opposite Pasha — Men’s Traditional Shoes of South London. Fred (aka Fred the Shoe) owns the shop and, on his own, is an institution. The shoes are traditional, many made in England, Northamptonshire and are between £50 and £100 less than you’d pay on Regent Street. So go there and spend your Christmas money, look after the shoes and they’ll last twenty years easily. That works out about £7.50 a year plus re souling. When you get them resoled DO NOT USE THE TWAT at the bottom of Grove Vale who ruins shoes for only £80 a time.

    As far as the earth works at Burgess Park goes — the delays that have happened were OBVIOUSLY going to happen … That was preordained by the way Southwark started the project way back when, managing expectations about the amount available and letting it slip that £2million would be put into research, consultation, design and decision making.

    It’s distressing, in the extreme, to see how the whole charade of public spending is meted out the way it has been on that public space over the last sixty years. £millions chucked down the drain in half baked social engineering projects done by half baked intellectual idiots who couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery. Demolish, Renovate, Refurbish, Renew Repeat — at decades apart at public expense. This has been the case on that site for decades. It’s been used in Landscape Architecture courses all over the world as a case study in WHAT NOT TO DO. I fear this incarnation will be but another chapter in the tome of foolish failure although I fervently hope I am wrong. If it’s a triumph I will be pleased and will regard it as a sign of HOPE.

    I’m voting for
    More Betting Shops for Christmas
    More Hair n Nails for New Year
    More Evangelical Churches for Easter
    More Chicken Takeaways for Summer Solstice
    More Cornucopias of Yams & Batteries for the whole of the rest of year. Season upon season …

    There will be peace and goodwill and shooting galleries and rehab centres and parking issues and noise and bad street furniture and one ways that make no sense

    In the meantime I’m off ice skating in Edinburgh

  26. Hmmm … that italicisation above was something I’ve been trying to do for years — add some html into a post. It didn’t work.

    But on an UP note for me — This is the first Christmas I’ve had in SEVENTEEN years where I’ve not been stressed out to the MAX and that is because the Sun and Doves is boarded up.


  27. A very great Christmas and a Happy New Year 2012 to everybody!

    Couldn’t help noticing what J Mark Dodds said about Burgess Park

    “It’s been used in Landscape Architecture courses all over the world as a case study in WHAT NOT TO DO”

    Funny That…

    For many years, Elephant and Castle has also been used as an urban case study in Architecture and Urban Planning courses all over the world in — WHAT NOT TO DO.

    Have Southwark Council learnt anything from the mistakes of the past?

    I’d really like to know the answer to that in this time of charity and goodwill — 😉

    p.s — Men’s Traditional Shoes — It’s a fantastic place — if what you want isn’t in the window — ASK! — Fred’s stockroom is much like the cupboard from Narnia…

  28. Similar problems with an increase in betting shops, pawnbrokers and so on are being experienced in many other parts of London including Deptford, where we have been organising to object to such planning applications over the last couple of years (we are currently fighting a second application from Betfred after the first one was rejected by the council and also by the planning inspectorate). Unfortunately as the national law stands at the moment, licences can only be refused under a very narrow range of objections and planning permission for change of use is not required if the premises is formerly a bank, building society or pub for example. Bookmakers are willing to open multiple branches close to one another (particularly in areas where rent is cheap) because they are only allowed a maximum of four fixed odds betting terminal machines on each premises. These machines are where most of the bookmakers income comes from, and are recognised as potentially very addictive, which is why the number per branch is restricted. The council will likely continue to grant permission for these applications unless the electorate starts to object; those councillors on the planning committee who are making the decision do not necessarily represent the wards which are affected, so it is up to locals to object to the applications and badger their councillors to take up the case. It may not always work, as we have found, but it’s certainly worth trying. There’s plenty of additional information on my blog or on http://crossfields.blogspot.com/ for anyone who wants to find out more.

  29. We sit on Denmark Hill directly opposite the new BetFred. Over the years we have been here we have been disappointed to watch many great small businesses go under, only to be replaced by Pawbrokers and Betting Shops. The most recent example was “Bonne Intention”, a lovely little Deli selling high quality cooking ingredients, continental food and wines. Just the kind of place we need in Camberwell.

    As discouraging as the emergence of more and more Pawnbrokers (etc) is, we believe that the only way to change things is to “vote with your feet” and make a concerted effort to patronise places like “Bonne Intention”.

    However, the diverse nature of Camberwell’s residents means that there is great potential to have a good mix of different shops on the highstreet. We hope to see much more diversity in the future.

Comments are closed.