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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bookmakers In Hackney

When it comes to stories of Hackney Council Planning decisions and bookmakers opening up in Hackney Old Town Hall, it's beginning to look more and more as if we've shot ourselves in the foot.

Regular readers will recall how in February, after the disappointment of Hackney losing its bid to host Britain's first "supercasino", I was excited at the prospect of the Pipe-Chandler FHM Leisure & Gentlemen's Entertainment Centre coming to The Old Town Hall in the Narrow Way as part of the area's regeneration, or "place-shaping" programme. I must confess that, having consumed a bottle of claret before writing the article, I did go rather over-the-top with the bit I wrote about the planned restaurant: "Good use will be put to the grassy area surrounding St Augustine's Tower. The old graves will be recycled (the slabs will make nice table-tops) and the area will be redeveloped by Hackney's Regeneration Squad (once any old paintings, murals and graffiti have been removed) to create 'The Pipe-Chandler Al Fresco Dining Lawns'." Little did I realise when I wrote this facetious paragraph just how close to the truth it could have been.

You will also recall how upset I was to discover that the intended occupant of our elegant former Town Hall and Georgian Grade II listed building was Corals Bookmakers and that the Victor Chandler connection was merely a coincidence involving the lease of commercial offices that happened to be in the same building in the West End. I reported then that I couldn't understand Julian's anti-bookmaker comments and insistence that Hackney Council was trying to purchase the site freehold to prevent the deal, because it was us who sold the freehold to property developers only three or four years earlier. As someone who is normally an ardent Party loyalist, I'm embarrassed to admit that, in a fit of pique, I wrote a piece entitled: Is Pipey Telling Me Porkies?".
We'll fight 'em on the beaches...
So this morning, reading Hackney Toady over my cornflakes, I almost choked when I read the front page lead article. According to The Toady (formerly known as "Hackney Grain Harvest Today"), Julian has thrown his not inconsiderable weight firmly behind the residents' campaign to prevent the opening of yet more bookmaking shops in the Borough. There's even a nice picture of The Old Town Hall with the caption "Hackney's Old Town Hall could become a bookies" (my italics). The article describes how "The Mayor has also slammed plans to turn Hackney's 19th century Old Town Hall on Mare St., formerly home to HSBC bank, into another betting shop." It goes on to quote Julian as saying: "Planning law means the Old Town Hall can be changed from a bank to a bookmaker's without having to ask for planning permission. There is nothing the Council can do about it."

And, of course, Julian is right. Bookmakers are classed under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) in the same usage class as banks and other financial institutions, as the collection of peoples' money is their prime function. So anywhere that used to be a bank is likely to be a prime target for a bookmaking firm, as no change of use planning permission will be required.

With the exception of The Hackney Groveller, which is campaigning on behalf of an 82-year-old war veteran who has been banned from his favourite betting shop, most people in Hackney seem to be in favour of restricting bookmaking activities in the Borough. Perhaps, therefore, it would have been a good idea if Hackney Council hadn't sold off the freehold while the building was still registered for use as a bank. After all, if we'd hung onto the freehold at that time and leased the property to HSBC instead, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. Or maybe we should have considered a freehold sale with covenants. After all, large areas of Hackney cannot host public houses in 2007 as a result of land covenants established in Victorian times.

When I wrote my piece about Julian and the porkies, I was feeling quite angry about the evil property developers who leased the building out to Corals in the first place. That was until I discovered that their original intention had been to seek a restaurateur to take on the lease, but when in 2003 they applied for the relevant change of use from A2 (financial) to A3 (restaurant), Hackney Council turned them down. OK, admittedly the application wasn't fully completed and was far too general for permission to have been granted, but we seem to have missed a golden opportunity to discuss with the new freeholders the sort of tenant we would like to see and to assure Nadan Properties that the Council would support such applications in the future. So it looks awfully like we shot ourselves in the foot by effectively encouraging Nadan to take the easy option and lease to a bookmaker.

Since that debacle, we've done our very best to thwart the plans to convert the building into a bookmakers. As, for instance, when we granted listed building consent and planning permission for the satellite dish on the roof in December 2005, listed building consent for the internal shopfitting in August 2006 and discharge of planning conditions for the works in February, March and April this year - all on a delegated basis without reference to the Planning Subcommittee. Back in 2000 we gave HSBC planning permission to erect a flagpole and fly their flag from the balcony as well, but I don't think this permission would automatically transfer to Corals. Mind you, they probably wouldn't need it, what with all that illuminated signage Hackney Council has just approved.
An illuminated symbol of Hackney under New Labour
Still, at least there's some good news. Linda has explained to me that, although she's on the Planning Subcommittee, she didn't vote in favour of the 30 square feet of illuminated silver "Corals" signs shortly to be placed on three sides of the Old Town Hall building, when it was granted planning permission three weeks ago. My little sweetie-pie didn't vote against, either. That's because like the rest of the permissions for the new bookies shop, the application never came to Committee. It was decided under delegated authority by the Planning Case Officer.

Pheeeew! No mud to stick to my family over that one, then. But I guess Julian might have some explaining to do.

11 comments:

Burlington Bertie said...

Even money Pipey is our before years end

Burlington Bertie said...

Fiddle sticks my hoofs for hands I mean OUT

Edna Gribbins said...

That's only a summary of the planning permission. Where can I find all the details of the application and the decision?

Luke Akehurst said...

We will probably take it off-line soon, just like our register of members interests, so trouble-makers like you can't get hold of the information and misuse it by exposing what we get up to. But for the time being you can find the application, designs and decision here, by searching on 2007/0597.

Trotsky said...

Luke you may find this champagne socialist nimbie rant up your street

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,2078456,00.html

Bugger me said...

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,2078456,00.html

wan kin (socialist) said...

Come on Trotsky, you're nearly there. Try clicking on the following:

http://tinyurl.com

Then paste: http://observer.grauniad.co.uk/focus/story/0,,20 etc . . .
into the box shown, the site will automatically have allowed you to copy the new shortened website address.

Then paste it back on here, confident that we can read the full string.

You're not, by chance, the IT Manager for Hackney Council are you?

Luke Akehurst said...

Even I can do that:
http://tinyurl.com/36gtyb
and I'm a moron. Does that mean I would qualify to be Hackney Council IT Manager?

Max Caller said...

You've got the job sunshine

Lord London Fields Lido said...

Well knock me down with a feather... I knew Penny Thompson had got the boot and Hackney was short a chief exec, but who'd have thought Max Caller would come back?

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