Brent residents who thought they had successfully fought off plans to open a new gambling site in their town are furious that the closure of a pawnbrokers appears to have reopened the door.
Harlesden already has two casinos on the same street, Park Parade, where Silvertime Amusements Ltd wants to open a new adult gaming centre.
A vandalised vacant betting office is being eyed up for the development, but Brent Council had previously refused two applications on the basis there was already the maximum number of that type of venue locally that their policies would allow.
The council previously said it would represent “an over-concentration” of adult gaming centres, pawn shops and payday loan stores in the town. However, the recent closure of a High Street pawnbroker has meant the 3 per cent threshold wouldn’t be exceeded.
The latest application submitted to Brent Council again seeks to change the use of the site from a betting office to a high street casino. Park Parade is already a hotspot for antisocial behaviour and Harlesden’s local policing team have previously opposed plans to give a licence to the premises. One resident believes opening a new gambling site will “encourage more people to hang around Park Parade” drinking and harassing passers-by.
They said: “There is already a problem with antisocial behaviour on Park Parade, with a large number of groups of men hanging around the street. We witness dealing on this road on a daily basis. We have a 15-year-old daughter who has been hassled a number of times on her way to and from the train station. This has resulted in her being fearful of leaving the house.”
They added: “Harlesden already has a serious problem with deprivation, drug dealing and violence, which is getting worse with the cost of living crisis. It’s proven that it’s those who are struggling to make ends meet [who] favour gambling. A further gambling business will take what little cash vulnerable people have. With less money, people will turn to crime and drugs which is a blight on our community.”
The application has received more than 50 objections, with many residents taking to the street in July in opposition to the previous plans. The demonstration was organised by three Labour councillors from Harlesden and Kensal Green, Cllr Jumbo Chan, Cllr Matt Kelcher and Cllr Mili Patel.
A joint statement said: “Harlesden, which suffers from high levels of deprivation and household debt, does not need another gambling facility, particularly when there are two other such centres just a few minutes’ walk away.”
They added: “We fully support the community in its opposition to these plans which will bring no benefit to our area and undermine the great progress that has been made in attracting new family businesses, such as the recently opened Nilly’s Flower shop and Kaleo café, to Park Parade.”
The plan will come before the council’s planning committee later this week (October 18), where a decision on whether to approve it will be determined. Planning officers have recommended that it is allowed to go ahead as the previous reason for refusal no longer applies, and they dismissed claims that it would increase antisocial behaviour.
A report states: “It is not considered that the proposed development would result in an unequivocal link between the addition of one adult gaming centre and the incidence of crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour.”
Silvertime Amusements Ltd could not be reached for a comment, however, the application states that the premises would “broaden the evening economy”, whilst having “no adverse impact on retailing activity” or harming the character of the shopping centre.