Those who have been objecting to Betfred opening shop at the old Halifax site have been waiting to hear the decision of the Bristol Planning Inspectorate after Betfred appealed for the second time (see our January post).
Yesterday, anyone who had written an objection should have received an email from the Inspectorate notifying them of a new statement submitted by the appellant. In this 18-page document Betfred argue that the decision made by the Inspector against their last appeal on the grounds that betting shops in the area attract crime and antisocial behaviour was based on rather flimsy evidence.
However, as if on cue, the NewsShopper reports today that three men have been arrested over alleged drug dealing at Paddy Power.
On May 2, New Cross Safer Neighbourhoods Team arrested the men on suspicion of supplying Class B drugs from Paddy Power, Deptford High Street.This news will come as no surprise to some locals, one or two of whom have been following the manager's Twitter feed. So, it appears, have the police.
One man was searched in New Cross Road after leaving the betting shop and five wraps of Class A drugs were found on him. Officers then returned to the bookies, detaining and searching the punters inside. A further man was found in possession of Class A drugs and arrested, while another was given a cannabis warning.
At a linked address, police found scales, cling film and cutting implements believed to be used for preparing Class A drugs, along with three bags of cannabis and a can of CS gas.
Two men in their 20s have both been bailed pending further enquiries.
Meanwhile, Betfred whine on and on:
"...no information is given as to the number of reportable crimes relating to Deptford High Street in general or in relation to other identified occupiers within the town centre to identify how the reportable crimes associated with betting shops compare with other shops on the High Street."We suggest the Inspector has a chat with the staff at Greggs (who, coincidentally, recently saw fit to bring in some male staff) and to other shopkeepers such as Housewives Cash n' Carry about the massive level of blatant shoplifting – along with aggressive behaviour – committed by some betting shop regulars. The frequency of this petty crime means it is not worth reporting, since doing so is disruptive to trade. Nor are there local police resources to keep up with it. But Betfred go on:
This last statement beggars belief. How little these people understand their customers! Punters will congregate where they find the best deals, and Betfred will no doubt aim to offer better deals than their rivals (if and when they get stake in our high street). In Paddy Power's case, the best deals have also included Class A drugs!"Having reviewed the list of reported crimes provided by the Licensing Officer, only one of these relates to a public order offence which could constitute antisocial behaviour, the majority of the other offences listed do not relate to crimes which would impact on neighbouring residents, only to the owners of the individual betting offices. Furthermore, no information is given as to the exact nature of the crimes, particularly in relation to the incidents of criminal damage to be able to adequately assess whether any of these incidents would have impacted on neighbouring residents.
No evidence has been put forward by the Council to support their case that a higher number of betting shops automatically results in more crime...Should an individual engage in criminal activity they are not more likely to do so because there are more betting shops. There is a case to be made that in fact it is more likely that with a higher number of betting shops it is less likely that large congregations of customers will result in a single shop and therefore crime and disturbance could decrease."
Betfred will argue that they'll run a cleaner shop than their (potential) next door neighbours – the very same promise made by those other identical corporate billion pound businesses when they moved into this 150 meter stretch. Paddy Power, meanwhile, continues to break local planning laws with their unauthorised building alterations, as well as breaching the terms of their gambling license by allowing crime to be conducted on their premises.
One of the Licensing Objectives is: "preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime." This, as we have learned previously, is interpreted in law as crime = "serious organised crime" and disorder = "riots". So it will be business as usual at Paddy Power, who can now claim to be "creating a new job in a vibrant town centre".
Of course all this is not to say that all betting shop punters are criminals, or that all the blokes who hang outside for a tinny and a smoke are up to no good. Indeed the Safer Neighbourhood Teams know exactly who the regular offenders are. But it should be noted that Lewisham Met's Licensing Officer has failed to supply updated crime statistics to back up in law what everyone who lives or works on the high street knows to be the case. Betfred state: "It is also relevant that the Witness Statement prepared by the Licensing Officer is unchanged from the response provided in relation to the previous application submitted in February 2011." Such laziness may well lose the case on a technicality for the good people of Deptford.