City leaders have failed in their attempt to block plans for another betting shop in Preston.
Members of the council’s planning committee went against a recommendation from officers, by rejecting proposals from Coral Racing Ltd to convert a city centre property into a bookmakers.
Coral had lodged plans to convert Leisuretime Amusements in Market Place into a licenced betting office, but councillors threw out the plans amid fears of an “over concentration” of bookmakers in the area.
Now an appeal made by Coral against the decision has been allowed, after an inspector found the proposal would “add to the vitality and viability of the city centre”.
A report said the inspector acknowledged the council had provided evidence that there were currently eight betting shops in the primary shopping area, and if plans were approved it would result in five betting shops in close proximity to each other. The inspector acknowledged it could be seen as to the detriment of the diversity of the shopping centre.
But the report to councillors said: “The inspector referred to there being no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the presence of nine betting shops in the primary shopping area would impact on the vitality and viability of the city centre.
“On the contrary, the inspector referred to the appellant’s evidence which demonstrated that betting shops attract high levels of footfall and also attract linked visits to other shops.”
Coral alleged the council had acted “unreasonably”, but the inspector ruled the awarding of costs would be “unjustified”.
The inspector said the reasons for refusal were based on “significant and relevant factors” and said: “Unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense had not been demonstrated.”
Coun Drew Gale, who is a member of the planning committee and represents the Town Centre ward, said: “From my perspective, I wanted to make a point that a line must be drawn.
“Hopefully the government will sort some alternative legislation to stem the tide of fixed odds betting terminals.”