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Anger over plans for betting office
A FIRM of bookmakers hopes to move into an empty shop in Headington, sparking anger from traders.
William Hill has submitted a planning application to turn 106 London Road from a retail store to a licensed betting office.
The unit, which sits on the corner of Kennett Road, used to house the Cartridge World store.
But traders are hoping that the plan will be rejected after Costa Coffee had its November 2011 application turned down.
The Costa Coffee application was turned down because it was contrary to Oxford Local Plan provisions governing district shopping centres.
Councillors said it would reduce the overall proportion of shops in the Headington district centre to significantly below 65 per cent.
Elaine Bellenger, who owns fashion store Monaco in Old High Street, was shocked to hear of the William Hill application.
She said: “That’s just ridiculous. I hope the council see sense in refusing them.
“Why should we have all these bookmakers on the high street preying on people?
“My first choice would be for it to be a retail unit.
“But they turned down Costa Coffee coming in there and they would have been prepared to spend money on the property.
“In this economic climate how many businesses can invest money into a property?”
Headington already has two bookmakers, with Betfred at 126 London Road and Ladbrokes at 103 London Road.
Rupert Adams, spokesman for William Hill, said: “We don’t usually comment on an application until we have received permission. But we do a lot of market research into what sites are needed.
“We look at things like footfall in the area, if we have other shops there, how busy they are and if we have any competitors in the area.
“Should it be granted it would be a shop refurbishment and employment for up to five people.”
The shop is available to let with Liggins Thomas for £30,000 per year and a change of use can be permitted if evidence shows a shop has remained vacant for a significant amount of time.
The unit has been empty since June 9, 2011.
For an applicant to be successful they have to submit statistics showing the change of use will increase footfall.
Ruth Wilkinson, a city councillor for Headington, said: “Councillors have to be careful when stating opinions on planning applications.
“We need to keep an open mind until all the facts can be taken into account.
“I hope that the premises can be filled as soon as possible as empty shop fronts are off-putting. “This particular property is in a prime area.
“Would the opening of a third bookmakers in Headington bring more customers to the shops? That’s up for debate.”
David Green, owner of Brambles Wool Shop on London Road, said: “Obviously it’s nice to see another unit filled rather than empty.
“But I don’t think it will bring more people shopping to Headington. We’d all prefer to see independent shops, but in reality it isn’t happening.”
The city council is considering the planning application but a date for a decision has yet to be set.