Sefton Council held its first Council Meeting of the new year at Southport Town Hall last Thursday, 23rd January, and rather more happened than usual. I will write up over the next few days about some of the other things that took place at the meeting, but I first wanted to refer to a Lib Dem success in a key area of concern.
Before I go any further, and having said that rather more happened than usual, I will mention something that didn’t happen: not a single Conservative councillor said anything for the whole meeting.
The Lib Dem success I referred to is that we should now see Sefton Council introduce measures to control the spread of payday loan shops and betting shops. These are a great concern to many, and in the case of betting shops include high stakes, fixed odds betting terminals.
Our proposal, moved by my Birkdale Ward colleague Simon Shaw, was that the Council should consider introducing a so-called ‘Planning Article 4 Direction’ as a means of regulating the spread of such shops. I am please to say that this Lib Dem initiative received unanimous backing from all parties on the Council.
Simon explains the problem: “Currently planning law allows existing high street uses such as restaurants, pubs, takeaways and suchlike to change to 'financial services' offices without needing to gain planning permission. The problem is that betting shops, pawnbrokers and payday loan shops all fall within the 'financial services' offices category, what is called Use Class A2.”
“In London, last October, Southwark Council decided to introduce an ‘Article 4 Direction’ which meant that specific planning permission is now needed before such conversion can take place.”
Following agreement to the Lib Dem proposal, the Council’s Planning Officers will now report back on the case for introducing the same measure in Sefton Council.
However Simon cautions that an ‘Article 4 Direction’ doesn’t control such premises completely.
“For example, converting an estate agents’ office into a betting shop would still be allowed without specific planning permission, as they both fall within Use Class A2. However we are hopeful that this measure will go some way to help reduce the spread of such premises.”