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.