Surrey town divided over 'morally wrong' plans for 24 hour gambling centre near school

Plans submitted to turn the vacant bank into an 24/7 adult gaming centre (image Google)
-Credit: (Image: StreetCuew)

A proposed 24/7 gambling shop in the former Barclays bank building in Ashford has sparked an outcry from local residents.

Over 200 letters of objection have flooded in against the plan. The application for the Church Road site is seeking to have an "adult gaming centre" adding “vitality and viability” to the town centre, according to documents submitted to Spelthorne Borough Council by Astro Property (MK) Ltd. Planning documents reveal the gaming centre will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including Bank Holidays.

There have only been three letters of support at the time of writing. Objections currently stand at 208 and began pouring in from May 24. One response said: “This would be a hideous mistake for our high street; it would attract all sorts of dubious characters.”

On the other side, rather than the gambling shop encouraging anti-social behaviour, one resident said it would "keep people out of trouble" and "give them something to do". Other commentators complained about the empty shops in the high street, claiming the new gaming centre would add life to the town and bring in money.

Others dubbed the shop as ‘morally wrong’ and ‘socially irresponsible’ and residents said people should not be encouraged to spend money they do not have. Critics said the gaming centre will “create more opportunity for poverty” and noted food banks are frequently used in the Ashford area.

Citing a few primary schools within a short walking distance from the proposed site, one person said: “Our children don't need slot machines to aspire to, we don't want gambling addicts.” The north Surrey town already has a Coral and William Hill betting shop, so some residents questioned why a third gambling centre was needed.

Objectors wrote they want a facility for the community, or a site which would “make Ashford a pleasure to visit” instead of the gambling shop. One commentator suggested the bank should be turned into a community hub for the elderly a mental health cafe, or a children’s play zone.

The planning application follows on last year’s refusal by a different agent in November 2023. Planning permission was refused for insufficient information on noise disturbance and the potential impact on the surrounding properties. Spelthorne Council was also unconvinced the shop display would contribute to the vitality and viability of the town centre.

No details have been provided of the design of the shop front, but the applicant has submitted a noise impact report stating no improvements are necessary and there will not be a noticeable inconvenience to neighbours.

Applicant Astro Properties (UK) Ltd said: "The previous application was refused on two grounds and these have been addressed in the new application. We look forward to the Council’s decision." He added planning decisions are not determined by public referendum but by material decisions.

The building is four-storeys tall and is between the restaurant Wimpy and Muggeridge Of Ashford at the junction of Dudley Road and Church Road. The top two floors are residential with the application seeking to change the use of the ground and basement floors. The applicants said the site would employ up to eight people.

A Spelthorne Council spokesperson said: "At this stage the application is still under consideration, and we await consultee responses and comments. The deadline for comments is Thursday June 13, and no decision has been made on the application."

Details of the application are on the council's website, with a decision due July 3 by the latest.

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