LGA survey – Strip clubs and bookies are hitting economic growth

LGA media release 14 April 2012

Clusters of strip clubs (72 per cent) and betting shops (57 per cent) are hitting the economic growth of local high streets, according to most council officers surveyed by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Concerns have also been raised by the respondents that the vibrancy of high streets is being affected. More than three-quarters of council officers (76 per cent) believe that strip clubs were to blame, while almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) felt the same about bookies.

Other respondents raised concerns about the prevalence of fast food takeaways on local high streets, with almost half of respondents (45 per cent) believing they impacted upon economic growth.

Almost nine in 10 councillors (89 per cent) and over three-quarters of council officers (77 per cent) are calling on the Government to give them more powers to tackle the clustering of retail premises such as strip clubs and betting shops on high streets.

Council officers believe that diverse high streets are the key to ensuring their future success, with those considered most important being:

  • retailers, such as book and clothes shops (99 per cent)
  • restaurants and cafes (95 per cent)
  • local butchers and bakers (93 per cent)
  • amenities, such as libraries and post offices (89 per cent)
  • and entertainment, such as cinemas and bowling alleys (68 per cent).

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Vice-Chair of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said:

"These figures show that councils believe that the clustering of premises such as betting shops, fast food outlets and strip clubs is hitting economic growth.

"The general public are less likely to shop on high streets with clustering, while businesses may be less willing to set up on roads with clusters of unsavoury takeaways and raunchy sex shows.

"While it is positive that the Government response to the Mary Portas High Street review accepted many of the views raised by town halls, tackling clustering remains an ongoing concern.

"Town halls and local people are calling on the Government to reform the tools available to councils to make local planning decisions that can prevent unwelcome clustering hitting economic growth."

Another recent LGA opinion poll found that more than a third of the general public (37 per cent) stated that clustering puts them off visiting their local high street, inevitably impacting upon their financial viability. The clustering of strip clubs and betting shops on high streets was also considered to have a negative effect on their vibrancy by 57 per cent and 50 per cent of the public respectively.

The previous poll also found that women and older people had the greatest concerns over strip clubs and betting shops. Nearly seven in 10 people aged 65 or more (68 per cent) said that clusters of strip clubs had a negative effect on their local high streets, while 62 per cent of women said the same.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of local people instead want central government to give councils new powers to help shape their high streets in the interests of their communities.

At present, councils are powerless to prevent certain properties on the high street being changed into bookies. The tool at their disposal, an Article 4 Direction, is unwieldy and bureaucratic. Councils must give bookies a year's notice under the powers – or face making substantial compensation payments. This has resulted in councils being virtually powerless to shape high streets in the interests of local people.

Councils want to see a shakeup of these ‘Article 4 Directions' and to see the introduction of a new local planning use class for premises of potential future local concern. Within this new ‘super' planning class, councils would be able to add premises – such as fast food takeaways or bookies – which local people believe have a negative effect on their high streets. This could also give councils the power to stop an over-concentration of supermarkets in a particular part of town, or to allow a greater diversity of smaller, independent retailers.


Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: LGA Media Office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333

Notes to editors

The LGA undertook a survey of both officers with the responsibility for planning and councillors with the planning portfolio between 20 February 2012 and 23 March 2012. The survey was sent to all single-tier and district councils for officers (348 officers), and all single-tier and district councils in membership of the LGA for councillors (344 councillors). A 41 per cent response rate was achieved for officers and a 42 per cent response rate for councillors. Full results of the survey are available from the research team on request:
Email: research@local.gov.uk

Previous poll information: The LGA commissioned ComRes to undertake an opinion poll of 1,875 adults in England and Wales online between 8 and 9 February 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all adults in England and Wales. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data can be downloaded at the ComRes website:

The LGA has previously given evidence to the CMS Select Committee inquiry on gambling, including detailing concerns on betting shops. To find out more, please read our media release:

Reckless gamble with our high streets fuelling crime

Other supporters calling for action:

Councillor Rowenna Davis recently launched another campaign called ‘High Streets First', which is focused on the high numbers of betting shops on our high streets. The campaign states that there are 77 betting shops in Southwark and that local people "are against this kind of proliferation".

The Mayor of London wrote last year to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling for changes in planning laws to prevent clustering.

Parliamentarians from across the three main political parties have shown their support for legislative change by supporting the ‘Betting Shops' Private Members Bill, tabled by Joan Ruddock MP.

Betting Shops Bill 2010-12

The charity Living Streets has also been calling for Government to take action to encourage diversity on high streets and tackle clustering.

Living Streets

Sustainable Communities Act case studies expressing anti-social behaviour and public health concerns about clustering:

London Borough of Hackney  Hackney has 64 betting shops, which is three times the national average for a local authority area. At the same time the borough has areas of significant deprivation and a mapping of the location of these shops reveals that they cluster in the poorer areas of the borough. Another feature is that they are concentrated on particular streets, with Mare St alone having eight shops and Stamford Hill with five.

Liverpool City Council – Following complaints from residents, Liverpool has called for specific powers to deal with premises which materially impact upon the health and wellbeing of their local area. They make the case that too many premises serving alcohol and fast food within an area contribute towards anti-social behaviour and public health problems.

As part of the current Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry into Gambling, a number of concerned parties have given evidence, all of which is available here.

Culture, Media and Sport Committee – Written evidence

This included a number of submissions from interested parties within the London Borough of Haringey.

In Haringey, it has been reported, there are as many as 72 betting shops.

Ken Livingstone and Tottenham MP David Lammy take stand on Haringey's prolific betting shops

In Haringey, Tottenham High Street has 10 premises, while Haringey Green Lanes has eight. Haringey has been a leading voice in exploring how planning and licensing policies can be used in the interests of local people to prevent clustering of premises.

Many other councils have also expressed concerns about their high streets and have spoken of the need for new powers to shape their high streets, these include:

  • Waltham Forest – Concerned about high numbers of betting shops, and impact this is having.
  • Newham – There have been concerns from local MPs about high numbers of betting shops and their impact.
  • Leeds – Councillors and residents recently tried to halt plans to relocate a betting shop to the entrance of a historic market, due to concerns it would have a detrimental impact.
  • Cambridge – Tabled an amendment to the Localism Bill, about concerns the diversity of their high street was being hit.
  • Bristol – Concerned about the lack of diversity on their high streets, particularly high numbers of supermarket chains and coffee franchises.
  • Islington – Concerned about high numbers of betting shops and drinking premises on their high streets.
  • Oxford – Concerned about over-saturation of high streets and lack of diversity. Seeking new powers.
  • Northampton – Shoppers recently expressed concerns about plans for another bookmakers within the town centre.

4 January 2016

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