Extraordinary scenes in Thornton Heath tonight, where the council has broken the habit of a lifetime and actually listened to residents.
Croydon Council announced today that it has refused permission to an operator of “adult gaming centres” to open a slot machine arcade on Thornton Heath High Street, which was to have been open 24 hours a day and wanted to entice the punters in with a bright yellow-lit doorway.
Luxury Leisure wanted to develop the former HSBC bank. But within one week, a community campaign collected a thousand signatures to oppose the proposal, for a stretch of the district centre that is already blighted by a surfeit of bookmakers’ shops.
The council report refusing the application (for change of use) gave among the reasons for the decision that the arcade would have “an adverse impact on neighbouring properties from activity and coming and goings associated with the use during more sensitive night- time hours”, it would “have an adverse impact” on the High Street’s “vitality and long-term viability”.
The council officers were unusually critical of Luxury Leisure’s not-so-bright idea of having yellow lighting around the arcade entrance, which they said would cause a “beacon-like effect that… would cause harm to the appearance of the shopfront, property and surrounding area. It would form an uncharacteristic and alien feature of the district shopping centre that would unduly draw the eye, to the detriment of the street scene as a whole and to the local designated view”.
The Thornton Heath Community Action Team submitted a petition to the council with 926 signatures gathered in just seven days. In addition, 36 individuals objected directly on the council’s planning portal.
Among their objections were the anti-social behaviour associated with gambling, increased risk of crime, and the closeness of the proposed arcade to the local leisure centre, and the possibility therefore that it might draw in children.
“The proposal only creates poverty, in an already deprived area,” one objector said.
The ward councillors, Karen Jewitt, Pat Clouder and Callton Young leant their weight to the objections, and tonight, Young said, “Drawing attention to community protections provided for in Croydon’s Local Plan, local councillors strongly objected to the planning application for a gaming centre at 91 High Street, Thornton Heath.
“We are delighted to learn that the application has been rejected.”
The matter may not yet be over, however. There is the possibility of an appeal.
Among the objections, some residents had suggested other, more acceptable uses for the shop site, such as a café or restaurant. But the bank has been closed for more than two years now, and no other tenant with a commercially viable use has yet come forward to lease the site.
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