New bookies is best bet but against policy

SAD PRESENCE? Commercial Street has issues with empty shop units.
SAD PRESENCE? Commercial Street has issues with empty shop units.

A new betting shop will open in Batley after plans were unanimously approved by councillors – despite them not wanting to grant permission.

High street bookies Betfred have been the only company to apply to set up at 71 Commercial Street since it became empty two years ago.

The application was granted even though it means more than 33 per cent of the area’s units will become non-retail plots – which is against planning policy guidelines.

Approval is deemed acceptable because it will benefit the town’s employment prospects and footfall – two full-time and four-part time jobs will become available.

Councillors on the Strategic Planning Committee reluctantly decided it would be a better situation to have a shop up and running than leave the space empty.

Steve Hall, chairman of the committee, said: “I hate seeing loads of betting shops and money lending shops but unfortunately we are in the situation we are in.”

Coun Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said he had sympathy with the two people who objected to the application.

He added: “The presence of Commercial Street is sad. It does need revitalising and whilst one would not necessarily put forward a betting shop as the way of doing that, it’s better than an empty shop.”

The bookies will open from 8am-1pm on Monday to Saturday and 9am-10pm on Sundays.

Three homes have also been approved for development on urban green space land off Thorncliffe Road.

Four councillors were in favour of the development, two against it and one abstained. Coun Pinnock objected to the plans on the basis that it was an area lacking green space so would have been of value to residents.

Chairman Andrew Marsden said: “It would have been nice to see a different type of store open on Commercial Street. However at a time where interest in empty units is not high it is pleasing to see another empty shop filled. We are also welcoming onto Commercial Street a new nail bar, together with the jobs it will create. The larger units have proved difficult to rent to new tenants, which may be because of the level of rents and rates that a business is taking on when opening up. I know from speaking with independent retailers that such a financial commitment is beyond the means of most traders. It would be nice to see incentives such as rent holidays offered, which might perhaps encourage take up. We are also hoping that Tesco’s plans to offer the units in Alfreds’ Way at competitive rates will encourage new business.”