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No new bingo hall for Park Parade

So, we have a final decision from Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate. The ex-William Hill bookmakers in Park Parade won’t become Silvertime’s third adult gaming centre (AGC) in Harlesden anytime soon.

In a decision made earlier this month, a planning inspector Chris Baxter, agreed with the Council’s Planning Committee that this additional AGC in the town centre would push the combined number of AGCs with pawnbrokers and payday loan shops (PPLSs) over the 3% limit set by Brent Council.

The inspector did not agree that an AGC in this location would lead to more antisocial behaviour, which had been the Planning Committee’s second reason for refusal.

When Silvertime wanted to turn 5-6 Park Parade from a betting shop into a 21st century bingo hall this was a change of planning use, so they needed consent from London Borough of Brent. Silvertime also needed a licence from LBB to operate which, because of the different standards involved, was granted by Brent’s Licensing Committee. However, when the application went to the Council’s Planning Committee, it was refused on the basis (amongst other things) that it would affect the vitality and viability of Harlesden Town Centre. The committee also stated that there would be negative effect on the surrounding area in terms of noise, disturbance, crime and antisocial behaviour (ASB).

Silvertime appealed the refusal and provided extensive documentation that challenged LBB’s views on ASB in the area and their policy of combining pawnbrokers and adult gaming centres to reach a 3% threshold, while leaving betting shops with a separate 3% limit. They further argued that, even with this low threshold, the actual number of AGCs and PPLs combined was below the 3% limit set bearing in mind there are nearly 400 premises in the town centre.

The Inspector took the view that although there have been many closures of pawnshops and payday loan companies (PPLs) in the town centre over the past few years, these premises still had permission to trade as PPLs and as such should be counted towards the total - which would 0.45% over the limit. This was enough for the inspector and he dismissed the appeal.

As far as the proposal having a harmful effect on crime, disorder and anti-social in the surrounding area the inspector was, on the evidence before him, not convinced. This despite local disturbance and ASB being the major concern of the neighbours who objected.

So, the town centre is left with vacant premises that, due to its large size and off-high street location, could remain empty for some time. Whether a large empty shop, or the alternative of a bingo hall, has a worse effect on the viability and vitality of the Town Centre is a debatable point. But the planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State has made up his mind.

Postscript

Over the past few months there have been two other planning applications for conversion of ex William Hill betting shops into Adult Gaming Centres. In Wembley High Road and Willesden High Road, where the proportions of AGCs and PPLs are very similar to Harlesden. In both cases change of use consent was given by Brent’s Planning Committee without dissent.

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