This petition is now closed, as its deadline has passed.
We the undersigned petition Westminster City Council to bring in an Article 4 direction preventing the Prince of Wales pub on Harrow Road becoming a betting shop in order to protect local amenity and the wellbeing of the area. More details
Petition update from the council, 04 September 2015Dear All
The Council is required to give a formal response to all petitions. Please see the decision of Westminster's Licensing Sub-Committee below in relation to the proposed Betfred application on the Harrow Road:
Members acknowledged that Betfred is a responsible owner and that the objectors who have made written or verbal statement are not against the operator or betting shops per se. The Sub-Committee noted that, in accordance with the Gambling Act, it had to aim to permit the use of the premises for gambling but only if that use was reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives and in accordance with the Licensing Authority Statement of Policy. In this case, the Members had concerns regarding two of the licensing objectives, namely crime and disorder and the protection of vulnerable adults. The members were particularly concerned that vulnerable persons in the area would be harmed or exploited by the operation of yet another betting shop in the immediate locality.
In regard to crime and disorder, the Sub-Committee accepted that Mr Owen could not guarantee the premises would be crime free. However, in seeking to make a balanced and proportionate decision, Members were swayed by the compelling evidence presented to the Sub-Committee by the police, licensing authority and by local residents of the regular anti-social behaviour and harassment that occurs both inside and outside the existing premises. Reports of criminal activity such as criminal damage, theft, threats of violence against residents and betting shop staff, aggravated begging, drug taking and drug dealing, both inside and outside the premises, listed from pages 193 – 204 in the Sub-Committee report coupled with the verbal submissions made at the hearing, were sufficient for Members to feel confident that they could establish a direct link between the local betting shops and crime and disorder associated with those shops. Whilst much of the evidence centred around the operation of the William Hill premises at 357 Harrow Road, there was evidence to the effect that the Maida Hill junction was generally a hotspot for criminal and anti-social behaviour and these premises occupied a very prominent position within that area. Despite the measures outlined in Mr Owen’s presentation proposing how they intend to manage the premises effectively, the Sub-Committee believed that granting a licence to another betting shop at this location would further exacerbate the current crime and disorder that is associated with both the local area itself and the existing betting shops. In that regard, the Sub-Committee noted the submission from the Licensing Authority that one of the existing betting shops is in the process of having its licence reviewed.
The licensing objective that was foremost in the Sub-Committee’s thoughts when deciding to refuse the application was the protection of children and vulnerable adult from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Members wished to highlight that they had no concerns regarding the protection of children from harm or exploitation by gambling due to the robust measures adopted by the Applicant to protect children from harm. The Sub-Committee, however, had serious concerns about the Applicant’s ability to make sure that vulnerable adults are not harmed as a result of the gambling activities proposed at these premises. The Sub-Committee noted paragraph 5.2.2 of the Gambling Commission’s guidance which states:
“The Act does not seek to prohibit particular groups of adults from gambling in the same way that it prohibits children. The Commission does not seek to define vulnerable persons but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes people who gamble more than they want to, people who gamble beyond their means and people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to mental health needs, learning disabilities or substance misuse related to alcohol or drugs”.
The Sub-Committee referred to the concerns raised by the Licensing Authority, the police and local residents of the large number of vulnerable people who access a wide range of services for drug, alcohol and mental health issues based in the local area. These include the St. Mungo’s hostel and the North Westminster Drug and Alcohol Service. Whilst the Sub-Committee was fully aware that there was a general presumption to permit gambling applications in the legislation, this needed to be balanced against the fact that there was specific relevant guidance that the location of the premises can be taken into account.
In addition, policy LOC1 in the Council’s Statement of Principles clearly states that applications will not be granted in sensitive locations unless the relevant criteria in policies OBJ3 are met and further states that any application within close proximity to a hostel or other sensitive location where there is the potential for exposing vulnerable persons to gambling, must include detailed information as to how the proposals will promote the gambling objective of protecting vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Paragraph 15.5 of the Council’s Statement of Principles states that sensitive locations will include locations where there is a concentration of gambling premises in an area where vulnerable persons are likely to be harmed or exploited. Location is of particular significance in the case of Harrow Road because of the high proportion of services listed above.
Members also noted that Mr Owen accepted in his presentation that the area is one of high depravation. Many of the vulnerable people living and or accessing services could potentially be attracted to the current betting shops in the vicinity. The Sub-Committee agreed with the evidence of the licensing service in relation to the difficulty presented by identifying vulnerable people. Ms Jacqui Hayes’, a specialist worker in the Harrow Road area for many years, told the Sub-Committee that addiction was only one type of vulnerability and the basic awareness training put forward by the Applicant would be insufficient to identify people who require protection from gambling. Having regard to all the evidence put before them, Members did not accept that the Applicant could adequately guarantee the protection of vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
The Sub-Committee concluded that the granting of this application for a new betting shop at such a highly sensitive location would be likely to result in an increase in crime and disorder that is associated with betting but was particularly concerned that it would also increase the risk that vulnerable people in the area would be harmed or exploited by gambling. As a result, the application was refused.
More details from petition creator
This stretch of Harrow Road already contains 3 betting shops, including one directly next door. We believe that the Harrow Road and Prince of Wales junction need a wider and better range of shops and facilities, not a greater concentration of fast-food and betting shops."