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Local Government Association High Street Survey

A public opinion survey on behalf of the Local Government Association.

Date Published: 25 Feb 2012

Categories: Public and communities | Retail & Consumer | Social | UK



More than two thirds of local people (68 per cent) are against existing rules that allow betting shops to take over banks and building societies’ premises without planning permission, according to a new opinion poll today.

A Local Government Association/ComRes poll found that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of people instead want central government to give councils the powers they have been calling for to improve their high streets in the interests of their communities.

The ‘clustering’ of high numbers of similar premises was cited as having a negative impact on the vibrancy of a local high street. Only 12 per cent of respondents weren’t of this view, therefore indicating a widespread perception that clustering is a major problem.

Adult sex shops and strip clubs (57 per cent) and bookies (50 per cent) were cited as major concerns when found in clusters, with many people also worried about the impact on their areas caused by late night fast food takeaways and tanning salons.

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.

Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said:

“This opinion poll shows local people want government to give councils the powers to tackle unsightly clusters of sex shops, bookies and takeaways that can blight so many of our high streets. People want action so the places they live, work and shop can be revitalised to reflect how they want them to look and feel.

“Councils want high streets to thrive and are on the side of local people and are ready to put a stop to high numbers of unsavoury takeaways, betting shops and strip clubs where there is a demand to do so. High streets across the UK have suffered a cardiac arrest and it is now time to let local authorities step in and deliver the necessary life support.”

Councils are calling for greater planning powers to tackle existing clusters of bookies and other premises on our high streets and help stimulate local economic growth. Currently councils are powerless to prevent betting shops setting up, due to unwieldy and bureaucratic ‘Article 4 directions’ (see Notes to Editor).

Instead 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 (see Notes to Editor).

In addition to powers to tackle nuisance premises, councils have called for further initiatives to give local high streets a shot in the arm. Other proposals include: a greater emphasis on entertainment and leisure facilities, such as sports clubs; the means to takeover empty shops; more powers over local transport; and less unnecessary red tape. Councils are also keen to work closer with businesses following any planning changes to ensure that economic growth remains a priority.

ComRes surveyed 1875 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.

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