An adult gaming centre will open on Thornton Heath High Street despite intense public objection after a government planning inspector ruled that despite it being contrary to Croydon’s Local Plan it was better for the premises not to be empty.

Luxury Leisure Admiral’s parent company had already been successful in obtaining a gaming licence after the council refused permission for change of use for it to open a slot machine arcade in the old HSBC bank premises at 91 High Street.

A community campaign saw a petition signed by almost a thousand people against the gambling centre.

However, because the shop has sat empty since September 2017 despite apparent attempts by the lettings agent to market it, the inspector Mrs J Moss concluded: “The development would, therefore, result in a significant improvement to the contribution this premises makes to the character and appearance of the area. In view of the period of time this premises has remained in its current condition, I view this as a benefit of the scheme, along with the creation of jobs. These matters would contribute to the vitality and viability of the Thornton Heath shopping centre. “

Mrs Moss also said that having the arcade in  the shopping district which has been selected for a government High Street initiative (turn to P4): “would not jeopardise the positive momentum of the centre’s regeneration, particularly in view of my findings above. “

After discussions with the police Luxury Leisure, revised its proposed operating conditions from 24-hour opening to 7am to 2pm and the council licensing committee was unable to refuse the application because it met all the conditions.

The company then appealed against the planning decision and a hearing was held in December. The inspector did make one concession, limiting opening hours from 7am to midnight Monday to Saturday and 7am to 11pm on on Sundays and Bank Holidays. 

Cllr Karen Jewitt, who attended the hearing with members of the community said: “I am bitterly disappointed. What we can do now is watch that they obey every single rule.The planning application was turned down by the council, the company took it to appeal, the government (not the council) department who heard the appeal overturned the council’s refusal. Myself, four members of THCAT and Cllr Pat Clouder attended to speak on behalf of Thornton Heath residents. I am sorry we did not win but don’t think we didn’t do out best.”

A five-strong team from Luxury Leisure including a QC attended the hearing presenting a customer survey from one of its outlets in Blackpool, in one Britain’s most