A gambling company that wants to open a slot machine arcade in a former bank on Thornton Heath High Street will tell planners it should be allowed because it will  ‘benefit and complement’ the neighbourhood.

Luxury Leisure, which runs Admiral Casino has put in a  application to turn 91 High Street which was formerly HSBC bank in to an amusement arcade.

Planners are being asked to approve change of use, external alterations  and a new signage which will display the words: Admiral Casino ”slots, gaming, and online” including display screens.

The community objected in numbers against Paddy Power,  opening a betting shop on the corner of Woodville Road with nearly 300 signing a petition but it still went ahead. Objections are already gathering against this latest application to turn the  HSBC bank, which has sat empty since July 2016, in to an adult gaming centre. Previous research has shown that betting shops tend to cluster in areas of deprivation and the arcade, if it went ahead, would be within five minutes walk of four betting shops  offering fixed betting terminals 

Thornton Heath High Street was recently named by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) as the third unhealthiest in London based on a proliferation of fast food outlets and betting shops coupled with a growing number of empty shops.

A firm of planning consultants Litchfields  employed by Admiral to handle the planning application is putting the vacant shops at the  forefront of its argument for gaining permission. However, this may not go down well with the  council which has recently overseen a multi million pound regeneration of the High Street and complained that the methodology for the RSPH  survey was unfair and that in fact Thornton Heath has some lowest vacancies of empty shops in the borough.

The premises are next door to Wimpy which closed in the summer and  legal firm opened in the other half of the bank Law Eagles solicitors early this year.

Lichfields says in a planning statement that it undertook a survey of Thornton Heath centre in November 2018 and that there were several vacant units close to the application site, including the adjacent unit at 89 High Street (Wimpy), as well as at 61, a large vacant public house (The Thomas Farley).

It says, the unit therefore sits within a section of the High Street, which visually appears to have a ‘high proportion of vacant units …and evidently is in need of investment.’

James Commercial which is advertising the premises on an annual rent of £35,000 says in a supporting letter that it considers that the proposed adult gaming centre use would ‘benefit and complement’ existing neighbouring uses.
 The lettings agent says it received interest from uses, such as (D1) for a charity, (A3) for an Italian Pizza Restaurant, and (A5) for a Fried Chicken Take-Away along with  a number of independents, all of which would require change of use.

 The reason given for these parties who viewed not going ahead, included; difficulty parking close by, to pick up and drop off patients/customers, narrowness of unit, particularly on ground floor, too large too small , too much work for a new business and a lot of empty units along the street, so concerned if location has enough footfall. 

Litchfield concludes: “It is evident from the above that there is no evident prospect of the property being let for another town centre use the reasons set out above. Its use for Adult Gaming Centre would therefore help to bring back into use this vacant unit thereby contributing footfall to this part of the District Centre where there are currently several vacant units. 

“In respect of economic benefits, the proposed development will bring a vacant town centre unit back into active use and create direct jobs. Furthermore, the proposed use will attract expenditure within the town centre and footfall thus contributing to the broader leisure economy of Thornton Heath.”

 Luxury Leisure describes itself as ‘a well-established slot casino operator with over 230 amusement centres across the UK as well as a successful online presence’. It says it enforces a ‘challenge 25’ policy and undertake staff training to prevent usage by under 18s. Luxury Leisure has now moved all of their venues from a ‘think 21’ to a ‘think 25’ policy to reinforce their policy of ensuring that under 18-year olds are not able to gamble.

Last year Luxury Leisure came up against similar objections against a ‘adult gaming centre’ opening in Norwich abut the council there  said: “The application was granted in line with all relevant legislation and guidance.”

In its planning statement to Croydon Council Litchfield also warns on appeal decisions: “Having reviewed several relevant decisions, we note the following….. non-planning issues or concerns raised should be disregarded as being irrelevant for the purposes of a planning decision.”

The planning application can be viewed here: https://publicaccess3.croydon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=PJQLQHJLLAG00