11:20am Sunday 2nd February 2014
COUNCIL leaders have called for new powers to tackle the "blight" of betting shops spreading across high streets.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the licensing system could be reformed to give authorities new powers to stop bookies being "clustered" in town centres.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in Wales and England, said the public wanted to see fewer betting shops, but authorities faced restrictive planning and licensing systems.
Tony Page, the LGA's licensing spokesman, said: "Councils aren't anti-bookies but need powers to tackle the damage that can be caused to high streets and town centres by the clustering of betting shops.
"Planning and licensing controls are supposed to ensure new shops or business will benefit an area but the current system is preventing councils from acting on community concerns. The result is many of our high streets becoming saturated with betting shops and councils left powerless to act to limit the number opening up in their area.
"Licensing laws must be updated to allow councils to consider the impact a new betting shop would have on their local economy and existing businesses. This would protect the power of local communities and democratically-elected councillors to shape their area."
The LGA said the number of betting shops in parts of London had doubled in the past decade.
A Government spokesman said: "Local authorities already have a range of powers available to tackle any localised problems. These can be used to target specific areas where the cumulative impact of betting shops is becoming unacceptable.
"Taken together with powers under the Gambling Act to tackle individual premises, councils have a powerful set of tools with which to address any problems where they arise."
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