The brief history is that the Building Society closed in 2010. Betfred bought the lease on the building, applied for and got a license, but a planning condition from 1974 prevented them from opening. They applied to LB Lewisham to have the condition revoked, but the Council refused. Betfred then appealed to a Planning Inspector who allowed (sort of, but not quite) their appeal, imposing a narrower condition that still prevented the premises from being a bookmakers. The full decision of the first inspector is here
Betfred applied to Lewisham to lift the condition imposed by the Planning Inspector, and when the council refused they then appealed once again to a Planning Inspector and it his decision below.
Ironically, given last week's attack on planners in the BBC's The Secret History Of Our Streets it is only because back in 1974 when the premises became a building society a Lewisham Council planner dotted the 'i's and crossed the 't's by imposing a condition limiting the change of use (from retail) to a building society that Deptford has been able to fight Betfred off.
Whether the message (FRED OFF) will now dawn on Betfred remains to be seen.
Site visit made on 18 April 2012
by Graham M Garnham BA BPhil MRTPI
an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Decision date: 13 June 2012
Appeal Ref: APP/C5690/A/11/2168006
93-95 Deptford High Street, Deptford, London, SE8 4AA
• The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against a refusal to grant planning permission under section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for the development of land without complying with a condition subject to which a previous planning permission was granted.
• The appeal is made by Done Brothers (Cash Betting) Ltd against the decision of London Borough of Lewisham Council.
• The application Ref DC/11/78506, dated 30 September 2011, was refused by notice dated 16 December 2011.
• The application sought planning permission for use of the ground floor and basement for financial and professional services (Use Class A2) without complying with a condition attached to planning permission Ref APP/C5690/A/11/2151228, dated 16 August 2011.
• The condition in dispute is No.1 which states that: The premises shall be used for any purpose within Class A2 of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (or any provision equivalent to that Class in any statutory instrument revoking and re-enacting that Order with or without modification) other than as a betting office.
• The reasons given for the condition are set out in paragraphs 12-27 of the Decision of 16 August 2011.
1. The appeal is dismissed.
2. I consider that this is whether the condition in dispute is necessary to prevent a rise in anti-social behaviour, crime or disturbance to local residents and other users of Deptford District Centre.
3. In September 1974, planning permission was given to use the appeal premises as a building society branch office. A condition then imposed restricted the use only for a building society and for no other purposes (including any other in the then extant Class II of the 1972 Use Classes Order). In an application dated 17 January 2011, the present appellant sought permission to use the premises without complying with the condition imposed in 1974. This was refused by the Council, for reasons concerning the vitality and viability of the shopping centre and potential anti-social behaviour, crime and disturbance. The Inspector on that occasion allowed the appeal in part, imposing the condition No.1 copied in the summary at the head of this decision.
4. The September 2011 application then sought permission to allow all uses within Use Class A2. This effectively meant seeking a permission to use the premises as a betting office, and the representations have been made on this basis.
5. In a letter accompanying the September 2011 application, the appellant argued that the condition imposed by the previous Inspector was unreasonable and that his reasoning showed only a likelihood of harm rather than certainty that there would be adverse consequences from allowing a betting office use. The appeal statement focused on the alleged lack of substance in the local planning authority’s case. I consider both aspects of the appeal. I have also noted that the appeal site is within the southern part of the High Street, where the proposed use would become the sixth in a line of quite closely spaced betting offices.
6. The previous Inspector referred to “a strong body of evidence from local residents and shopkeepers that the existing betting offices in the Core Area give rise to anti-social behaviour, crime and disturbance” [paragraph 13 in his decision]. He took into account the appellant’s view of third party representations as being “subjective and prejudiced” but indicated that, nonetheless, “the frequency of the views expressed paint a clear picture of the nature of the problems experienced with betting offices in Deptford High Street” [paragraph 14]. He went on to consider evidence from the Police; crime data reported by the Licensing Officer; telephone calls from betting offices not resulting in a recordable offence; and a Premises Licence under the Gambling Act of 2005, issued in February 2011.
7. Drawing the evidence together regarding betting offices in the area, the Inspector came to the view that “for whatever reason, the evidence that premises in Deptford High Street act as a ‘magnet’ for miscreants is compelling” [paragraph 20]. He acknowledged that if he dismissed that appeal “the current state of affairs would remain but, to my mind, an additional premises would simply add to problems and should not be supported. Consequently the proposal would be likely to increase anti-social behaviour and disturbance although the implications for crime are less certain. The appellant company is critical of the Council for referring to the potential for harm to be caused in this respect rather than expressing certainty. It seems to me that it is not possible to be categorical but that the weight of well-informed evidence suggests that this outcome is likely to materialise. Put another way, it would be foolish to ignore the convincing accounts given or to assume that they
would not be repeated in association with the proposed betting office” [paragraphs 21 & 22].
8. As a consequence, the previous Inspector concluded that the proposed betting office use would make the High Street a less safe place and that there would be broad conflict with the intentions of policy STC4 in the London Borough of Lewisham Unitary Development Plan (2004) [the UDP].
9. I have quoted several extracts from the previous decision for 3 reasons. Firstly, the Inspector dealt at length with evidence directly relevant to the main issue in the present appeal. Secondly, from reading his letter and the representations now before me, there seems to have been little overall change in the scope, materiality or strength of the local evidence against the proposal. Thirdly, in these circumstances I see no need to replicate an argument that in my view has already been well made with regards to a directly comparable proposal.
10. There have nonetheless been some changes in circumstances since the previous appeal. From the appellant’s point of view, the company has been able to contest the appeal decision. However, while I accept that the evidence of the Licensing Officer, for example, lacks detail with respect to its implications for the present proposal, it appears to be substantially the same information as that taken into consideration by the previous Inspector, along with the range of the other information before him. The evidence before me is of a similar nature to that before the previous Inspector, and I see no compelling reason to take a different view on it. In addition, I am not persuaded that, in the appellant’s view, the previous Inspector acted unreasonably and imposed a condition that did not meet all the tests in Circular 11/95, The use of conditions in planning permissions.
11. With regards to objections to the proposal, many third party representations have been made in reaction to the present proposal. This indicates to me that the problems identified in 2011 remain of very considerable concern in 2012, and that fear of crime is genuine and persisting. In addition, two other more recent matters add weight to concerns about betting offices on Deptford High Street. First, the Mayor of London issued a statement on 18 October 2011 regarding the effect of the proliferation of betting offices on town centres, specifically citing “Deptford with seven betting shops on one street”. (I saw 7 betting offices on the full length of Deptford High Street.) Second, in January 2012 the Member of Parliament for Lewisham tabled a Private Member’s Bill to the effect that “betting shops” should be excluded from Class A2 of the Use Classes Order. These matters may be political in origin and the Bill may not pass into law. Notwithstanding this, they suggest to me that local concern over the number of betting offices on Deptford High Street has been of sufficient weight to attract wider attention at the constituency and London levels.
12. Another important change has been the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] in March this year. This has cancelled and taken the place of the national planning policy referred to by the parties. In favour of the proposal, the NPPF gives support to sustainable economic growth, and urges local planning authorities to “look for solutions rather than problems”. Bringing the vacant appeal premises into economic use could contribute in a small way to these ends. However the case has not been made that a betting office use is necessary in order to bring the premises into use: despite the small scale and local nature of many businesses along the High Street and the moderate quality of their premises, I observed only a few vacancies.
13. In addition, the NPPF states that there are 3 dimensions to sustainable development - the economic, social and environmental roles. “These roles should not be undertaken in isolation, because they are mutually dependent.” With regard to promoting healthy communities, the NPPF says that planning policies and decisions “should aim to achieve places which promote [among other things] safe and accessible environments where crime and disorder, and the fear of crime, do not undermine quality of life or community cohesion” (paragraph 69 of the NPPF). While the proposal might secure a small economic benefit, I consider that this would be outweighed by the significant social harm with respect to anti-social behaviour, crime or disturbance, as identified by myself and the previous Inspector.
14. I have further taken into account the appellant’s claim that the company is a responsible operator of betting offices. I have no reason to doubt this, but any permission goes with the land and occupancy and management styles could change in the future. Also, the appellant’s Statement refers to “a number of conditions” imposed on the Gambling Act licence of February 2011, and the company’s NPPF Statement maintains that conditions can be appropriately attached to the grant of planning permission “just as they have been to the licence already approved by the same local authority”. However, although this is now the second planning appeal since that licence was given, I have not seen any wording for specific conditions that has been made available for formal consideration and consultation.
15. The appeal site is in the Deptford High Street Conservation Area. I have seen no evidence to indicate that the proposal would not preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area.
16. Taking all the matters before me into account, I have found no overriding reasons to take a different view from the previous Inspector, who declined to permit a betting office use for the appeal premises. The evidence before me appears to be substantially the same as that put forward in the 2011 appeal. In fact, I consider that the sum total of evidence against the proposal has on balance grown in weight since August last year (paragraphs 11 & 13 above). I have seen no persuasive evidence that new planning conditions could be used to overcome the problems that have been identified, and thereby allow the disputed condition to be removed. Neither have I seen persuasive evidence that the condition in dispute fails to meet the tests of Circular 11/95 and should be removed.
17. Overall, I conclude that the balance of likelihood is that the use enabled by the removal of the condition in dispute would give rise to anti-social behaviour and disturbance to local residents and other users of Deptford District Centre; that the fear of crime would be enhanced by an additional betting office in close proximity to 5 others; and that there is a risk of an increase in actual crime. Such outcomes would broadly conflict with the intentions of criterion (d) of UDP policy STC4. There would also be material conflict with the social component of sustainable development, as set out in the NPPF. However, I have not identified conflict with any part of Policy 6 in the Lewisham local development framework Core Strategy (June 2011), also cited on the Council’s decision notice.
18. Condition No.1 in the planning permission granted on appeal in 2011 is therefore necessary and should be retained, and so I dismiss this appeal.