The sun has faded following the hot days and bright afternoons of the last days of May. But now, on the first day of June and on the eve of the Diamond Jubilee weekend, there is a reason for metaphoric brightness – a local campaign has seemingly brought about the demise of a proposed planning application for a betting shop.
Palmers Green, a north London suburb nestled between Southgate, Winchmore Hill and Wood Green, is a buoyant and lively shopping area with a fair split of independent and high street traders, a mix that is endeavouring to survive the economic gloom. But another foe has emerged, not unrelated to our ecomomic troubles – the betting shop. Two betting shops have opened on the high street in the last two months, replacing a restaurant and a video hire place, both of which had been there for years. Now, an application sits with the Council to create a further betting shop on The Triangle, the perceived heart of the town centre. This would make 8 such shops in a quarter mile strip.
Local MP, David Burrowes (Con, Enfield Southgate) has stepped into the fray, hastily organising a protest in front of the unit in question. Despite only giving 18 hours notice of the gathering, come 9am this morning, there were around 40 people huddled around him, expressing their feelings. This included representatives from local businesses, local residents and representatives from local organisations such as the Fox Lane Residents’ Association and Palmers Green Community, organisers of this month’s Palmers Green Festival.
Mr. Burrowes spoke in an informed and passionate way about the damage that a betting shop can do in terms of undermining the confidence and character of the high street, about the prospect of lobbying the Council to establish an Article 4 direction in the area to restrict certain types of permitted development, but also made it clear that he had understood why the betting shops were attracted to local high streets – though he couldn’t understand the business case. He also referred to the Government’s recent Portas Review, which had sought to bolster high streets and address their issues (Portas had raised the effect of betting shops on the high street and proposed a separate use class for them), and stated that he had discussed the matter with minister responsible, Grant Shapps.
He also listened as traders expressed concern about the effect that betting shops have on forcing rents up for existing traders, and listened to residents concerned about the decline of the shopping environment and the impact this could have on quality of life. He urged those present to object to the Council themselves and copy in their responses to him. And with a sense of apparent solidarity and good will amongst these objectors word came through from the landlord of the unit which is the subject of the change of use; unconfirmed reports that the application has been withdrawn. This public pressure, combined with the concern up to that point had seemed to have won out.
The community – by which I mean the wider community of traders, residents, shoppers, visitors and anyone else with a stake in Palmers Green – will need to be vigilant on how this one develops in the coming months, but the MP agreed that this is where a line has to be drawn. We watch and wait and wonder. A battle is won, but the war wages on