Our local paper in on one of those periodic crusades - this time against the "betting blight" as their headline proclaims:
The campaign calls for gambling premises to be required to apply for a special licence or be subject to a special planning category that would give local authorities the power to refuse them if it would be detrimental to the local shopping environment.
That's fine so far as it goes. By all means give local councils more powers to stop " rules that allow betting shops to take over building society premises and banks without planning permission." But before you do that, stop and think about what we'll get in place of these shops.
If I travel elsewhere - to one of the few town centres that are actually thriving - I won't find so many betting shops. There will be some - there are three in Ilkley by way of example - but they won't seem so prominent let alone dominant.
The problem in places like Bradford is that, if we don't have the betting shop (or the pawnbroker, or the pound shop, or the takeaway, or the charity shop) we're not likely to have anything at all. And before people think I'm having a dig at Bradford, the same goes for plenty of other places too - town centres without empty shops, places where the town centre race to the bottom, are the exception not the rule.
And those betting shops are not without benefit to the town. Each shop has a staff - a half dozen or so people who are paid to work there - and those shops wouldn't set up if there wasn't a market for what they offer. I don't get it myself but can't see why I should make some sort of moral judgement about the betting industry.
As ever with these proposals - just like the ones intended to removed permitted development rights on pubs - we need to be very careful what we wish for. Is it really better for the town to have empty shops rather than betting shops or takeaways? I'm not sure it is and I'm absolutely sure it's not in the interests of those who hold the leases on these shops.
And for once, I'm in full agreement with Dave Green, Bradford Council's leader (a man who likes a flutter):
...the Council was looking at ways to intervene directly in the development of the district’s high streets rather than simply relying on planning to ensure a greater retail mix.
The active use of the space under control of the Council for events, markets and all the things of leisure and pleasure that make a town centre these days would be a more positive and, I believe, more effective way to promote town centres that a further set of planning regulations that merely add costs and destroy jobs.