24-hour adult gaming centre recommended for approval

Former Carphone Warehouse in Huntingdon set to be 24-hour gaming centre

The former Carphone Warehouse shop in Huntingdon High Street will open as a 24-hour gaming centre. - Credit: HUNTS POST

An adult gaming centre planned to open 24 hours a day is being recommended for approval in Huntingdon town centre - despite “huge public opposition”.

There are fears that the centre, operated by Cashino Gaming Ltd, could cause anti-social behaviour and lead to gambling problems for vulnerable people.

The facility will operate around the clock seven days a week using slot machines and electronic bingo at the former Carphone Warehouse outlet in the High Street.

Planners at Huntingdonshire District Council say the centre meets planning policies and although it would lead to a loss of retail space, it would bring more vitality to the town centre than an empty shop.

They are recommending approval to change the use of the building by the council’s Development Management Committee which meets on August 23.

Cambridgeshire police have not raised any objections to the move, according to the planning documents.

Huntingdon Town Council, however, has objected to the change and the application has been “called in” for discussion by councillor Sam Wakeford.

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HTC feels the opening of a gambling facility on Huntingdon High Street is not appropriate and would be “detrimental to the financial and mental wellbeing of residents”.

They said there was the potential for the centre to attract anti-social behaviour and it would normalise the idea of gambling for the young.

In his call-in for the application Cllr Wakeford said: “There is huge public opposition to this proposal, of which the submitted public comments
at time of writing are but a small flavour.”

He said: “The claim that opening an adult gaming centre in this location will attract investment and increase the attractiveness of nearby vacant units, contributing to bringing them into use, is laughable and without evidence.

Local residents anticipate the opposite, with risk of exacerbating the vacancy problem through making the area of the high street less desirable for other businesses to be associated with.”

Cllr Wakeford told The Hunts Post: “We are trying to find sufficient reasons as to how the council can oppose this.”

He said opposition to the centre was a “long shot” since the plan met current rules, offering little scope for objection, and was an example of how little say residents had on plans they did not want.

All 14 replies to 19 consultation letters put out by the council opposed the scheme and more than 600 people had signed an online petition against the gaming centre, although it had not been given to the authority.

In a report to the committee, planners said: “It is noted that the proposal to convert the retail unit to an adult gaming centre would result in the loss of some retail floorspace within the town centre.

"However, it is considered that the vacant unit at the ground floor of the building makes no contribution to the vitality and viability of the town centre by remaining empty.

“The proposed use will make a positive contribution by introducing a new leisure and entertainment facility in this location, which is classed as a ‘main town centre use’.”

It added: “While strong objections have been raised to this proposal...it is considered that on balance, the proposed change of use of premises to an adult gaming centre is acceptable, subject to the imposition of appropriate conditions.”

The report states the centre "would not have a significant impact on other users and businesses".

Police told the council: “I am aware of the concerns regarding an increase in anti-social behaviour. In that regard I have reviewed police crimes and incidents for the two current sites in Peterborough.

“These are in areas that constantly attract crime and anti-social behaviour but there is no evidence that these premises contribute to, or cause any issues.”

Betting machines would have stakes ranging from 10p to £2, there would be none of the controversial fixed odds betting terminals and alcohol would not be on sale.