What’s the difference between an estate agent and a betting shop?

Harrison Ingram Estate Agent to be turned into a Betting Shop?
Apparently nothing. What used to be Harrison Ingram Estate Agents in Blackheath Standard is applying to be turned into a Betting Shop. And guess what? It’s three doors down from Ladbroke’s.

Estate Agents are defined as “use case A2”, which is for “Financial and professional services”. Here’s how “use classes” are supposed to work – it looks to me as though a change of use from Estate Agents to Betting Shop is viewed as quite normal, which makes me unsure as to whether to laugh or cry.

I don’t know what the best plan of action is against this, but I’d like to read your thoughts in the comments below. Please also look at the many posts on this subject on the Deptford Dame’s pages – some positive news too.

So what can you do?
See how to object to license changes on Greenwich Council’s site.
Contact your local councillors for Blackheath & Westcombe Ward, who are:

  • Geoffrey Brighty (Conservative) email geoffrey.brighty at greenwich.gov.uk or phone 07507 859 205)
  • Alex Grant (Labour) alex.grant at greenwich.gov.uk or phone 020 8855 7292)
  • Alex Wilson (LabourConservative) email alex.wilson at greenwich.gov.uk or phone 07783 611 607)

And tell them that you think it’s a crappy idea. Ask them whether they think it’s good for the area to increase the number of betting shops.

Then email licensing@greenwich.gov.uk writing along the following guidelines:

Apparently your representation must:

* Mention issues that relate to one or more of the four licensing objectives –
1. Protection of children from harm
2. Prevention of crime and disorder
3. Public safety
4. Prevention of public nuisance

* Describe precisely how you think the premises concerned are or would be contravening the licensing objective concerned
* Relate specifically to the premisses concerned
* Contain your name and address
* Reach the Council no later than the last date for representations given in the Licensing Applications list
* State that you wish for a named councillor to represent you at the hearing if you have spoken to your ward councillor about this.

God knows how you crowbar those points into your complaint, but please copy your email into the comments below, so that others can use it for reference.

Good luck with finding the application on Greenwich Council’s licensing pages… I couldn’t. Below is the full text from the application (typed by me, so please excuse typos – hyperlinks are mine).



175 Deptford High Street

is applying for a Betting (Other) Premises License under section 159 of the Gambling Act 2005.
The application relates to the following premises:

McDonnells Bookmakers
174 Westcombe Hill
London SE3 7DH

The application has been made to: London Borough of Greenwich, Community Safety & Integrated Enforcement, 11th Floor, Riverside House, Woolwich High Street, London, SE18 6DN

Information about the application is available from the licensing authority, including the arrangements for viewing the details of the application.

Any of the following person may make representations in writing to the licensing authority about the application

* A person who live sufficiently close to the premises and is likely to be affected by the authorised activities
* A person who has business interests that might be affected by the authorised activities
* A person who represents someone in any of the above two categories

Any representations must be made by the following date: 2 October 2011

It is an offense under section 342 of the Gambling Act 2005 a person, without reasonable excuse, gives to a licensing authority for a purpose connected with that Act information which is false or misleading.

London Borough of Greenwich, Community Safety & Integrated Enforcement, 11th Floor, Riverside House, Woolwich High Street, London, SE18 6DN

Here’s the estate agents rental page (don’t think it’s still on the market?) – PDF version here.

PS: Yes, I did speak too soon.


Filed under blackheath, planning, shops

34 responses to “What’s the difference between an estate agent and a betting shop?

  1. Mazer

    Gosh there must be fantastic profits to be made as a betting shop, with them springing up every where! They are the only competition to the tesco-sainsbury’s locals that are taking over every corner these days.
    Ps. Alex Wilson is a conservative councillor. I find that Geoff Brighty is very good and helpful from personal experience.

  2. Oops – good point – fixed..

  3. Hello BB. Speaking as one who was heavily involved in the Deptford campaign against the latest betting shop application by Betfred (from January to August 2011), may I say that we wasted a lot of time fighting the License Application in the first instance when Lewisham had no intentions of opposing it since they’d be faced with an appeal which they would lose – such are the vagaries of the 2005 Gambling Act upon which grounds for objection are based.

    For instance, Crime and Disorder means Serious Organised Crime and Riotous Behaviour. And since children are forbidden to enter the premises there is apparently no threat to them. I don’t recognise the other two on your list when we were objecting but they could easily be skirted over by the new betting shop since it can’t be proved that a public nuisance could happen when the shop hasn’t even opened yet. In fact evidence used in our case might actually strengthen McDonell’s case since we showed there was less crime in the north of Deptford High Street (where they are along with William Hill) – even though that evidence was just to contrast with the number of bookies in the south of the high street (five others) where crime was higher. How many bookies have you got up there anyway?

    There may be no change of planning use (I know, ridiculous) but Greenwich Planning may have something to say about the shopfront after the license has been granted (though it doesn’t look as if they are too strict in this area, quite frankly).

    Greenwich and Lewisham are such different beasts our experience may not be relevant, in which case, good luck. Try and get a realistic answer out of the Licensing Team about whether it is worth objecting (just so you know) – and then object anyway because even though the council may not be able to turn down the license it will be useful to them (and to yourselves) to know what opposition there is that they can rely upon later (at appeal, for instance, or if planning permission is required to change the fascia). Hopefully your ward councillors are more useful than ours and please read Crosswhatfields (search betting shops) as well as the Dame.

    FYI, Lewisham’s Licensing Team (the councillors, not the jobsworths in admin) were cross-party against granting the license, but knew they would lose in appeal. It’s the 2005 Gambling Act that has to change, but unfortunately the most we can hope for is a change in planning laws.

  4. Hello, I’ve written one of those personal rambling emails to a councillor which in my experience never works, but here’s hoping…

    Hello there,

    I’m not normally the type of person to run and complain to the local councillor, but news that the old Harrison Ingram Estate Agents on the Royal Standard is becoming the third betting shop in this tiny area is something I find quite depressing.

    I’ve lived here with my wife for four years and have seen the signs of change that pull the place from the past slowly happening, new shops like Ottie and the Bea and the Blackheath Cooks as well as the M&S opening have really made the Standard feel more like a modern part of town that can compete.

    The flipside of this is that this small area has an infestation of Estate Agents, about six newsagents in close proximity and two betting shops. Quite why there is this need for so many of each is beyond me.

    On a personal note, when a hairdressers on Old Dover Road was up for rent I proposed to open a small modern coffee shop there, but couldn’t even get my foot in the door as I was told that a) I’d have to apply for a change of use for the license and more worryingly, b) that the two other cafes (a greasy spoon and a traditional Italian cafe) were ‘very militant’ and would oppose a new coffee shop, and they don’t hesitate using local councillors (you perhaps?) to argue their case.

    Despite the fact that most people that I’ve spoken to here would love a new coffee shop doing decent coffee I lost heart, setting a new business up is hard enough if everything is going your way, the potential of months of fighting for it put me off.

    I want to be a part of this community and want to help do my bit to improve the area, but it feels a bit like the people in charge just care about high profit leases and keeping the old guard happy.

    Which to be honest, makes me want to move away.

    Yours Sincerely

    • annastamour

      Terry, I’m so sorry that bureaucracy has led to you abandoning your dream of setting up a proper coffee shop on Old Dover Road. I, for one, would have been thrilled if you had been able to do this!

  5. Anonymous

    Two types of legal gambling. Can’t see the difference.

  6. Teagunn

    I live just off Trafalgar Road and have a betting shop at the end of my road. For about the last 6-9 months it’s had 3 drunk layabouts permantely posted outside it’s front door. As far as I’m aware they’ve caused no trouble but I don’t particularly want 3 drunks at the end of my road. There’s a pretty constant stream of dodgy clientele going in and out and generally loitering around.

    I’m thankful that I’m only renting a property on this otherwise lovely road. I’d hate to be trying to sell on this street – it’s not really what a prospective buyer would be looking for.

  7. Hmmmm, do I detect a hint of snobbery in the comments here?

    I live in Charlton, but most days will see me up at the Standard for one reason or another. The idea that betting shops attract working class oiks is pretty old fashioned and offensive. I nip in to Coombes in Charlton Church Lane and have a couple of quid on the footie occasionally and the punters there seem fine to me. Tarring the clientel of bookies as the sort of people you don’t want in your manor is heading for dangerous territory IMHO.

    The fact the new shop will be three doors down from Ladbrokes would indicate to me that there’s a battle for punters going on here. There’s a finite amount of them around the Standard. Do you really think that nutters and drunks will be travelling to the Standard from miles around because a branch of McConnell’s Bookmakers has opened?

    I very much doubt it. Market forces will decide if there’s room for three bookies in the Standard. If there isn’t, one of them will call it a day and we will have another empty shop front in the Standard.

    BB – this has always struck me as a liberal site with a genuine passion for Blackheath and its environs, please tell me you’re objecting to the bookies just because there are two of them already and not because you don’t like their clientel!


    • Hi Chris,
      I kind of agree and disagree – the planning laws and business “use class” arrangements mean that your suggestion that a free market will win out is sadly untrue – see the comments below about how much harder it is to open a coffee shop than a betting shop, or take a look at the Crossfields blog. I’m not in the business of telling people how to spend their money, but I do feel pretty depressed when I see people in the Upper Crust shop on London Bridge station feeding money into fruit machines. If the machines weren’t there, they wouldn’t be using them. I don’t really want a discussion about whether gambling is good/bad, but I’m a resident here (as are you, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), and we all have a duty to try and encourage councils to engineer the type of environment we wish to see. Make no mistake, our local environment is very much engineered – it’s not simply a free-for-all as to which shops succeed and which fail. In a sense, a betting shop can’t fail. They have fewer overhead costs than other equivalent types of shops, and all that they sell is hope.

  8. Alex Grant

    I am concerned to hear of this application for a second betting shop on Westcombe Hill, just yards away from the existing Ladbrokes, and hope the council’s licensing committee will take residents’ concerns into account (any objections can simply be emailed to licensing@greenwich.gov.uk).

    It is not the council’s fault that betting shops and estate agents are in the same “use class” in planning terms, known as A2 – it is national planning law that has put them in the same category (see http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/147573.pdf))
    Because of this a new betting shop will often only need a license, not a planning application.

    I support the efforts Joan Ruddock (Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford) to create a separate “use class” for betting shops – see http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/whereilive/localheadlines/9157017.MP_Joan_Ruddock_battles_to_change_law_on_betting_shops/.)

    Although estate agents are hardly popular either, at least they do not generate the same degree of antisocial behabvour that betting shops can, and estate agents do not draw people into addiction and debt as betting shops can (or at least, not in the same way!)

    Alex Grant
    (Labour councillor for Blackheath Westcombe ward)

  9. BB – by market forces I was talking about the betting shops themselves. I don’t think the addition of an extra bookie — remember it’s only three doors from another one — is going to generate a load more gambling. If the money isn’t there one of the three will close, if it is there the three will survive.

    Alex — I repeat my view from above. Why will an extra bookmaker in the parade lead to a possible degree of ‘anti-social behaviour’? If Ladbrokes is not populated by anti-social elements, why should McCconnells be?

    You also display the sort of moral umbrage that is the sort of language which means you now have to object to every alcohol licence that is put before Greenwich Council as alcohol can, and does, ‘draw people into addiction and debt.’

    The moral of gambling — as BB says — can be debated elsewhere.

  10. Gavin

    I used to be assistant to the Green Party Group (when there was one!) at Lewisham Council and this was a serious, ongoing concern, not just for people in specific areas of Lewisham but all over London and beyond. The use class issue is the problem, and we attempted to use the procedures of the Sustainable Communities Act to propose a change to planning rules to create distinct classes or sub-classes, and to allow local authorities to set a cap in a defined area. We got the support of the council and then of the LGA, but it fell at the final hurdle when the DCLG rejected the proposal for extremely flimsy reasons. It’s a very depressing problem. And it’s not about snobbery, although of course that can enter the picture. The problem is that there is no way for local people and local authorities to have their say over what mix of outlets features on the parades and high streets which form the hub of their community, and that a profusion of one kind of outlet can bring down the ultra-local economy of the parade in general. I’d suggest that local authority leaderships, across party divides, need to, in concert, lobby Eric Pickles very hard on this, as the Sustainable Communities Act appeared from where I was sitting to be something of a sham, unfortunately. Either that or someone do a Stokes Croft, which of course I can’t possibly condone…

    Some background on the Lewisham battle:




  11. Rab

    One is a dingy den where low life scum hang out – the other is a betting shop?

  12. Stephen

    I can see how too many of one type of shop isn’t healthy for the Standard. But why are people so up in arms over a third bookies, yet in the next breath so upset that the Council turned down an application for a fourth coffee shop (and what would essentially be a seventh, maybe eighth takeaway food outlet?) at the Standard?

    Let’s make this a discussion about variety, not one governed by snobbery or personal interest. “I like good coffee but I don’t like gambling” is hardly a sustainable argument.

    As for “anti-social” elements, I’ve seen far more of that outside Pravin, or at the bus stops, than I ever have seen outside Ladbrokes or Coomes. So, should be lobbying to ban grocery stores and public transport?

    • Coffee is extremely sustaining. And I don’t like gambling much. I’m not suggesting a coffee shop. I’m suggesting that a change of use from Estate Agent to bookies is significantly different. It’s not snobbery, it’s wanting your local area to be the best it can be. I don’t want the whole of South East london to be monopolised by pound shops and bookies. Look at this map on the Crossfields blog. The Standard doesn’t need more betting shops.

      • Stephen

        Well, my argument would be that it doesn’t need another coffee shop either. Ottie and the Bea, Blackheath Cooks, the florist, Standard DIY etc are all great because they add variety. I love the Standard because I can actually do my shopping there. I don’t want it to be dominated by food outlets and to become a bargain-basement version of Blackheath Village. Too many of any kind of shop isn’t a good thing – be it bookies, coffee shop, estate agent, chemists (are three really necessary?) or anything else.

        And I really don’t see how liking or not liking gambling is relevant. The issue should be one of too much of one thing, not something based on people’s prejudices or personal tastes.

      • That sounds sensible to me!

  13. bill g

    I occasionally have a bet at the McDonnell Bookmakers shop in Deptford. The shaff are very friendly and the shop is very well run. They even give free coffee to punters(very nice it is too!).
    Surely a nice new betting shop is Blackheath can only enhance the area.

  14. Ernie

    Greenwich council seems to have a problem with small businesses. Im sorry to hear that Terry couldnt get his coffee shop near the standard, Im sure that Starbucks or Costa coffee wouldn’t have found it too difficult.
    As for drunks hanging around hasnt anyone been to Blackheath village on a friday or saturday night. Obviously that wouldn`t be the pubs problem – it would be societies problem.

  15. ElizaF

    As far as I see it, what small community groups of shops need are shops which are a mixture of function and community builders. Functional are your coffee / stamps / pint of milk / estate agent and betting shop types. They provide goods and services that people need.

    Community building shops are people and spaces that encourage people to meet and give a little bit back other than the taxes they pay.

    James and Alex who run the Gambardella cafe are community builders. They know most of their regulars by name. They don’t mind the Saturday footie and rugby teams tramping in acres of mud off the heath. They allow anyone through their doors and I have seen James go out of his way to comfort one of our local residents who was mugged on mycenae road on her way home.

    Julia, who runs Ottie … is a community builder. She runs a local notice board, advertises other local businesses on her website and facebook page, invites local craftsmen and women in to host workshops for children in beadmaking, crochet etc.

    These are people who go out of their way to make things a little or a lot better for the people who use their businesses. Every community needs a mixture of both. Now, most of us would not like to feel obliged to read a notice board or listen to a cafe owner try to placate a local shouting resident wound up by drunks outside the pub every time we nipped out for a pint or milk so if every shop were a community builder, there would be no balance. However with the increase in functional shops, it does make the commercial focus that little less community based.

    In the Blackheath Standard, we need more community focused businesses not functional ones. Another bookies is not going to do anything for the area and that is exactly what I will be putting in my objection letter to Alex Wilson and Geoff Brighty.

    • Good for you! I received a crap letter back from the council saying that my complaints were invalid. I also got several replies from local councillors saying that they agree, but somehow I get the feeling that the betting shop is going ahead. Links added to your comment by me.

  16. Dan

    Find below a rosponce from greenwich council…
    Please note that this response must be a copy and pasted response as 6 other people I know that have object got the same reply! In my eyes, they’ve already made up their minds! Seems to me that they are happy to wate more money by trying to make the standard a better place which is a good thing but then allowing something that will clearly make it as worser place!! Blackheath Standard? More like Blackheath lowering standards!!!!

    Dear Ms?

    I write in response to your email and representation to the application for a betting shop at 174 Westcombe Hill, London SE3. Even though you may feel that an additional Betting Shop would alter the ambience of the area with a possible increase in crime and nuisance, the legislation (The Gambling Act 2005) does not address that the amount of betting shops in any one area is a reason for rejection of an application. 

    Any objections (representations) must be with regard to at least one of the following Gambling Act 2005 licensing objectives –


    1. Preventing gambling from being a source of crime and disorder- the guidance says that “disorder” means more than just “nuisance” and would have to be something significant enough to justify calling the Police.

    2. Ensuring gambling is conducted in a fair and open way

    3. Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling


    As the content of your objection does not address any of the licensing objectives as listed above it is therefore rejected . When a Premises Licence is granted Mandatory Conditions are attached to a Licence.  Greenwich Council is committed to firm enforcement of The Gambling Act 2005 and of licensing conditions. 

    This application is still under consultation until 4 October 2011. At the moment there have been no acceptable objections to this application.


    If you wish any further information or advice
    Sent: 29 September 2011 18:58
    To: licensing
    Subject: Blackheath Standard/ Westcombe Hill

    Dear Sir,

    I have received a notice of application for. A gambling licence (WK/201111612).

    I oppose this on the grounds of being the wrong sort of business for the area as they’re are already 2 or 3 similar business that cater for this kind of profit.

    We need more variety for better generation of the area.

    I hope the council will notice this as I know they’re is funding being push to the Standard and feel it will be a waste of time if the appearance is allowed to be  lowered by such a business.

    Kind regards,


    Charlton Road, SE3

    This message is for the named person’s use only.  It may contain confidential, proprietary or legally privileged information.  No confidentiality or privilege is waived or lost by any mistransmission.  If you receive this message in error, please immediately delete it and all copies of it from your system, destroy any hard copies of it and notify the sender. You must not, directly or indirectly, use, disclose, distribute, print, or copy any part of this message if you are not the intended recipient. Greenwich Council reserves the right to monitor all e-mail communications through its networks, in accordance with legislation.

    Greenwich Council has scanned this e-mail for viruses but does not accept any responsibility once this e-mail has been transmitted. You should scan attachments (if any) for viruses.

    Greenwich Council can be contacted by telephone on 44 (0) 20 8854 8888

    Destination Greenwich – Host borough for 2012

  17. Vic

    The escalations of betting shops is a serious problem fed by the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals on their premises, and the long sight taken is that the casual gambler will drift onto these machines and become addicted. The cat fight has come to all areas of the country where profits are more important than the community at large, and hence the betting shop federation will stop at nothing to ply their trade in the fierce competition they have with other betting shops.

    Lewisham high street and nearby roads have been exploited to the limit, with seven betting shops within an area of a few hundred yards, and another soon to open in the near future. To put the icing on the cake, two of these betting shops are next door to each other even though one of them has another shop about a minutes walking distance away. Would we see the same likelihood without the machines? of course not, it wouldn’t be profitable to undertake such an investment. Local councils are being short sighted if they cannot envisage the long term damage this will have upon the area, where vulnerable people have no scope to avoid these well placed betting shops. I must also add that Lewisham high street has two arcade gambling premises as well, so be in no doubt that problem gambling
    will impact upon the local community where you live as it does in Lewisham.

    Another point to reckon with is this, the more betting shops you have in close proximity the harder it becomes for those shops to compete with each other. The bookmakers are not here to win status points, they are here to get your money at every opportunity, and computerized gaming machines will always be the maker that keeps them afloat. I do not see any closure to this problem unless we have an agenda to rid these machines from all betting shops, and that is easier said than done considering how our parliament wont concede ground. Sadly we have a weak voice in this matter, and only an organised mass demonstration across the country would have the desired effect to get something done. In the meantime the suffering will continue and lives will be wrecked, and who knows how many kids will grow up thinking gambling is the next best thing to gain a livelihood.

  18. Emily

    Have you seen the E Coombs “Turf accountants” in the village have been taken over by a big brand bookies now? I don’t know if they are going to change the signs – hope not because its quite subtle at the minute.

  19. Coomes betting are selling up following the death of the chain’s owner.

    I’ve said my piece on this blog before about betting shops, so I won’t reapeat it. But Vic, are you going to try and ban pubs from selling alcohol??

    That would seem to be the conclusion from you arguing the case to stop betting shops offering, er, betting facilities…..

  20. Vic

    Re-: Chris October 28 2011

    Chris, pubs have been around much longer than betting shops and hopefully they will survive the slump, and be the first choice of a warm environment that meets the local needs. Yes, we also have a need for betting shops too but, you need to have a balance that does not incur lost revenue to other local businesses. I have been a gambler all my life, and it breaks my heart to see our younger generation becoming hooked on so called gambling machines. The impact of which destroys the very youth we hope will contribute to our neighborhood, rather than making their future a burden of likely debts and lost attitude to those around them.

    The rules of gambling clearly states it should be fair and untainted by any means to alter the result, and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting shops do not comply to the rules gamblers take for granted. Not my words but the words of Bet Beware, which you can look up on the internet, so should betting shops be allowed to use this software that has a clear intention to take advantage of an unsuspecting gambler.?

    All ready betting shops are seeing a decline of usage on these machines, the mug punters are turning their backs in droves because the bait is no longer attractive. Why would we need more betting shops that stay half empty, better to use these premises for other businesses that bring new life to a neighborhood, that would have a much more useful purpose.

  21. Michelle O'Brien

    “… Why would we need more betting shops that stay half empty, better to use these premises for other businesses that bring new life to a neighborhood, that would have a much more useful purpose.”

    Like what, Vic? You must have noticed, high streets all over the country are dying. Shops of all kinds, including those of the big chains, as well as other business premises are closing, leaving acres of empty property in their wake.

    We’re in a major economic recession and cash-strapped local authorities,
    Lewisham included, are desperate to keep high street premises occupied and money flowing into depleted council coffers.

    With their unique appeal to one particular but growing sector of the public, it’s a situation the betting chains have been quick to realize they can exploit.

  22. Vic, I fully take your points about the dangers of gambling addiction, but am trying to be pragmatic.

    As Michelle points out High Streets are going through an incredibly tough time.

    I suppose the question is, “Are betting shops keeping new local businesses/start ups from opening on the High Street?”

    I’m afraid that at the moment the answer is “No”.

    So we’re left with the dilemma of betting shops or boarded up shops. I prefer the former, even though I hardly ever use them.

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