Local residents, supported by Karen Buck MP and Labour councillors from Westbourne and Harrow Road wards are protesting against plans by Betfred to turn the Prince of Wales pub into a betting shop. The pub, on the junction of Harrow Road and Great Western Road, has sat empty since the autumn but instead of being kept as a pub (with different landlords) or developed in a way to improve the Maida Hill Market area, the current owners have agreed a deal with Betfred to turn it into yet another betting shop. The pub is just one door down from a Paddy Power betting shop, with Coral, William Hill and a number of pay day loan firms also nearby.
Since rumours first emerged about a possible new betting shop moving in, over 230 local residents signed a petition calling on the council to act (http://linkis.com/westminster.gov.uk/P9GRM). Now local residents, Karen Buck and ward councillors are holding a short protest on Saturday 7th March at 12.30 pm outside the Prince of Wales to show community opposition to Betfred’s plans.
At a national level Labour has called for planning permission to be required when there is a ‘change of use’ to turn a property into a betting shop, but efforts to push the government to act are currently stalled. So residents and Labour Councillors are urging Westminster City Council to do all it can within its existing powers to help stop Betfred taking over this important local building.
Karen Buck MP says:
“Four betting shops in a short stretch of road, and two more close by, is an unacceptable concentration. We need a proper balance of shops and facilities in the Harrow Road in the interests of a safe, thriving local community”
Harrow Road Councillor Nilavra Mukerji says:
“We have been working with local residents, community groups and businesses through the Town Team, to try and improve facilities on Harrow Road. This new betting shop will fly in the face of everything that the local community has been working to achieve!”
Westbourne Councillor Adam Hug says:
“This protest is not about a general opposition to gambling but about the way these betting shops are clustering in and targeting an area with a number of vulnerable people. Betfred will not help our residents and the local community does not want yet another betting shop. We call on Westminster Council to do all it can to find a better alternative for the future of the Prince of Wales”.
• There are at least three options that Westminster City Council can explore to help block Betfred’s plans. Firstly it can look at an ‘Article 4 Direction’ that under planning law would recognise the Prince of Wales as being of ‘acknowledged importance’ meaning any change from being a pub would require planning permission. Secondly it could designate the pub as a ‘community asset’ that would give local residents more time and support to find an alternative use for it. Thirdly the council also has a decision to make whether to issue a gambling licence, within tight national criteria.
• The Prince of Wales has been in use as a pub since the 19th Century. Records go back at least as far as 1891 (http://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/Paddington/PrinceWalesHarrow.shtml).
• The protest will take place at 12.30pm on Saturday 7th March outside the Prince of Wales pub (351 Harrow Road, London, W9 3RA).