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Residents anger as former bank to be turned into ‘another’ bingo hall in Brent

Residents of a North London neighbourhood have been left angry over a ‘crazy’ decision to turn a former bank into a bingo hall. Cricklewood locals are confused about the need for another bingo hall when there is already one less than 200 metres away.

Barclays Bank permanently closed its branch in Cricklewood, Brent, in February of last year as part of a stream of closures in high streets across the country. By the end of the year, Barclays will have closed 1,140 branches since 2015, according to consumer choice organisation Which?.

Earlier this year, Brent Council approved plans to convert the basement and ground floor of the four-storey late Victorian building at the junction of Chichele Road and Cricklewood Broadway, into a bingo hall. Some residents have been left baffled by the decision, with many taking to social media to voice concerns as there’s already a similar site, MERKUR Bingo, a short distance down the road.

One joked on X, formerly Twitter: “Why not? [There’s a] complete lack of bingo facilities within a ten metre radius of the building.” Another tweeted: “With such a high level of low income and poverty in this area it seems crazy.”

A resident on neighbourhood app Nextdoor said: “I cannot understand how another establishment that promotes gambling in this current economic climate would be welcomed in any community, let alone one where it already exists nearby.”

They added: “I understand that bingo halls may be a warm space for older adults and others looking for a place to sit and socialise indoors, away from their own homes, but surely there is a better solution than another bingo hall.”

Brent Council’s planning team refused an application to turn the now vacant bank into an adult gaming centre in January due to the number of gambling sites already present in the area. However, a bingo hall doesn’t fall under the same category and is listed in the Local Plan as having a town centre use so, despite opposition from some councillors, the plan was approved.

Residents have called the plan “a disgrace” and would have preferred it if the high street retained its bank branches. One said: “Instead of closing banks they should have kept Barclays open and Nationwide as well. [It] feels like the people of Cricklewood are being sold out to gambling culture.”

There is no indication of when the premises will be open to the public, with a bingo licence still needing to be approved. The site is looking to open until 12:30am Sunday to Friday nights and until 1am on Saturday nights.