Sunday, February 20, 2011

Betfred update + only the Green Party speaks out

Betfred Planning Objection

Since we posted about the deadline to 'comment' (2nd March) on Betfred's Planning Application, the Lewisham website has been out of action. A temporary site informs us that this is "part of a data centre move that will save £250,000 a year" but that it will be up and running tomorrow morning. This has also meant that anyone wishing to view Lewisham Planning's documents on their strategies for retail in the borough will have found nothing, or if they've emailed their comments about the eleventh bookies in Deptford to, their email will have bounced back.

We urge you to make your objections known (only 10 days left to act)

Individual letters of objection are the best way to fight this. Unlike Betfred's application for a Gambling Licence, objections to Planning Applications are not bound by the limitations of the 2005 Gambling Act which disallowed comments about the number of bookies and observations on antisocial behaviour, or the effect on children and vulnerable people, or the clustering of bookies in one place etc. Feel free to 'comment' on all of those this time round! 

In a couple of day's time, we will post a template for an objection letter that you can use to email your objection to Planning, by which time, hopefully Lewisham council's internet services will be back to normal. So pop back soon, if you want some help writing your objection.

There is also a NEW petition on the high street at Deptford Project, Albany, Sight Centre, Kim's newsagents, Deptford Deli and Let's All Hang Together (on New X Road opposite The Albert). This is different to the one you may already have signed in objection to Betfred's License application. Meanwhile, the online petition (right) has been reworded, so if you have already signed it, please do not duplicate your signature! Please tell friends who are not online to find the paper petition in the high street.

Please also note that the right to object is not restricted to only those living on the high street.


Councils need more powers over betting shops, say Lewisham Greens

Those who took the trouble to object to the Betfred Licence application last month also copied their emails to local councillors and Joan Ruddock MP. As far as we know, not one of them has bothered to reply, except in one case where Cllr Maslin has promised to discuss the issue with Steve Bullock. Mayor Steve's office replied to some objectors about the difficulties faced by local authorities regarding the 2005 Gambling Act, and referred to the council's request in 2009 under the Sustainable Communities Act to change the law. As we have previously posted, this was a Lewisham Green Party initiative, and Lewisham Greens have since released a statement about the government's refusal to consider a change in the gambling law. Read it in full on their website.

Ute Michel, campaigner and spokeswoman for Lewisham Green Party, said:

"The response from the government to our proposal beggars belief. The situation was bad enough a few years ago when we were opposing the first application under the new law for a bookie's on Brockley Road, but it has only got worse since.

"We respect people's right to bet, so this never was a finger-wagging campaign against gambling.

"It is about the devastating effect on the economic health of local shopping parades and neighbourhoods when bookie after bookie lines a street, crowding out other goods and services and eroding the sense of place and community and we simply wanted to be able to say 'enough is enough'." 

Although Labour councillors (and one Conservative) on the Licensing Committee expressed their concerns to objectors after they were obliged to grant a licence to Betfred, New Cross and Evelyn ward councillors, Lewisham leaders and Deptford's MP remain conspicuously silent. This is extraordinary, considering the groundswell of opinion from the local community.

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