Adult gaming centre plans thrown out following backlash
By Laura Enfield | 10th May 2023
Plans for a 24-hour gambling venue in Cheltenham town centre have been thrown out following a public backlash.
Luxury Leisure wanted to transform the former ShoeZone building at 218 High Street into an adult gaming centre with up to 60 slot machines.
But council officers have rejected the plans and said it would harm the vitality and appearance of the town centre and cause an unacceptable impact on residents due to noise.
It follows a public outcry which saw The Brewery Quarter, Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, St James Action Group, MP Alex Chalk, local councillors, and the Minster church all speak out against the proposals.
More than 80 formal letters of objection were submitted with calls for the application to go before the planning committee if officers were minded to permit it.
Horrified locals said gambling centres are a "blight on the lives of people" which lead to "deprivation in society" and there was no need for another one in the Regency town, especially at a time of economic crisis.
One wrote: "As the son-in-law of an addicted gambler I can personally attest to the outright misery to which gambling can lead.
"With its growing prevalence amongst young people and the rise in suicide rates related to gambling any increase in its availability must be fiercely resisted."
Objectors also said it would cause an increase in antisocial behaviour and undermine the multi-million pound investments and work done to upgrade the Brewery Quarter area.
The council has recently invested £4.6million into the £7.7million Minster Exchange project and purchased Poundland and two other nearby shops for £3.3m to enhance the area.
Luxury Leisure, part of Novomatic UK Ltd, runs almost a quarter of the adult gaming centres across the UK, with 245 sites operating under the Admiral brand.
It said plans for the vacant shop, which has sat empty since March 2022, would contribute towards "town centre vitality and viability" and there was no evidence it would create a problem with gambling.
Borough councillor Max Wilkinson, who had campaigned against the plans, welcomed news of the rejection but said we must "remain vigilant."
The council's full reason for refusal:
1) The loss of retail unit and the proposed Adult Gaming Centre use would cause harm to the retail function of the Central Shopping Area and Core Commercial Area, create an inappropriate scale of adult gaming/gambling uses and harm the vitality of the town centre.
Consequently, the proposal conflicts with Policies RT1 & RT2 (a) of the Cheltenham Plan (2020) and Policy SD2 (5) (i) (ii) (iii) of the Joint Core Strategy (2017).
2) The proposal, by virtue of the bright yellow and blue aluminium boards, internal illuminated door, illuminated fascia and projecting signs, is not sympathetic to the historic aspects of the building and represents a garish design, using excessive lighting and unsympathetic materials. As such, the proposal would cause less than substantial harm to the Central Conservation Area, which is not outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme.
Consequently, the proposal is in conflict with NPPF (2021) paras 197(c) and 202, Policy SD8 of the Joint Core Strategy (2017), Policy HE3 of the Cheltenham Plan (2020) and para 2.1 of the Shopfront Design Guide SPD (2007).
3) The proposed 24 hour use of the Adult Gaming Centre is considered to cause an unacceptable impact on residential amenity in terms of noise. No noise impact assessment has been undertaken to demonstrate no harm will be caused by the proposed use.
Consequently, the proposal is considered to be in conflict with Policy SL1 of the Cheltenham Plan (2020) and Policy SD14 of the Joint Core Strategy (2017), which require development to protect the existing amenity of neighbouring land users and the locality.
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