Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Outside the old Yorkshire Bank building

The delayed hearing of Ladbroke's application to operate a betting shop in what was the Yorkshire Bank building in Hebden Bridge took place in Halifax's Magistrates Court on Tuesday 6 December 2005 and lasted most of the day.

At the start of the proceedings it was made clear that the decision would be made on whether the character, lay-out, condition and location of the building were suitable and whether demand existed for the betting shop in question.

A large number of men and two women who were in support of the application were in attendance and four were called by Ladbroke's early in the proceedings as witnesses. All four said they regularly placed bets, two every day, one three to four times a week and one once a week. All four criticised the existing betting shop on a number of grounds and said they would use Ladbrokes instead, were they to be granted a licence.

A professional licence investigator was called next and he too criticised the existing betting shop, describing it as the worst he had ever seen.

Ladbroke's National Licensing Manager made a lengthy presentation, attempting to show demand existed for a second licensed betting shop; that the appearance of the converted premises would be sympathetic to the environment; and that the facilities provided for the betting public would be far superior to those currently available in Hebden Bridge.

He said there were three criteria which bookies used as a measure as to whether they should seek to operate in a new location, these were

  • Was there a monopoly in the town
  • Were existing betting facilities poor
  • Was there overcrowding in existing betting premises

He claimed if only one of these criteria was met, a bookie would go ahead with an application. His subsequent assertion was that all three were met in Hebden Bridge.
Six objectors among many present, who had previously indicated they wished to speak, were then called and questioned. These were, in order of appearance, Jenny Leeson, Gwendoline Goddard, the Rev. Tony Buglass, Marie Piper, Richard Kinsey and Susan Quick. Each made different points, covering issues previously raised on this website, such as

  • Proximity to schools
  • Fame of Hebden Bridge as a town of small shops
  • Nature of the town and reluctance to see it cloned
  • Questioning of the demand for a second betting shop
  • The inappropriateness of that particular site, being at the town's major junction and highly visible
  • The difficulty of disabled access and the feasibility of a portable ramp at a point subject to congestion because of pedestrian controlled lights
  • The increasing reliance on income from tourists who value our independent shops

These points were supplemented with facts, figures and quotations from surveys, national newspapers and journals and Companies House. Each objector in turn was questioned by Ladbroke's representatives.

A disappointment, and surprise, for the objectors was Stephen Murty's statement just before the lunch adjournment that the Hebden Bridge Business Association, whom he represented, had been concerned about the appearance of the premises, were Ladbroke's to develop it, but that he had been reassured by what had been said on their behalf and a photograph provided of Ladbroke's premises in Stockport and was withdrawing their objection.

The objectors were not allowed to read out the letter of support from Hebden Royd councillors but the essence of it was summarised.

Finally the lawyer representing Ladbroke's addressed the court at length, finishing by quoting legal precedent and reminding the magistrate's of their role and duty and the confines within which they had to come to their decision.

After deliberation the magistrates returned to the court to give their opinion. Their ruling was that

  • demand existed for a second betting shop
  • the character, proposed lay-out and condition of the building made it suitable for operation as a betting shop
  • The objectors' hearts then lifted a little when the Chair of the magistrates turned to location. He said it was obvious this was the crucial point in letters of objection received and from those objectors who had spoken, but, after due consideration by the bench, he ruled
  • the location was suitable and therefore the application was approved.

Ladbroke's have taken a 15-year lease on the building, subject to a licence being granted, with a 5-year review of the rent. They will now go ahead.



Saturday, December 3, 2005

In spite of the weather, a large crowd turned up today to support the campaign to keep Ladbrokes out of Hebden Bridge.

St. George's Square

The demo was addressed by Jenny Leason and Nader Fekri

Ladbrokes: Hebden Royd Town Council members add their opposition

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Hebden Royd Town councillors were asked at their full meeting on Wednesday 30 November what their position was regarding the application by Ladbrokes for a licence to operate from what was the Yorkshire Bank.

A spirited discussion took place, lasting a full 30 minutes, during which all councillors who spoke expressed their support for those who had objected to the application, mainly on the grounds of the site being inappropriate for a multinational company advertising itself on what is the most prominent corner of the town and it also being inappropriate in a town famed for its independent shops and unique character.

They were not opposed to a second betting shop in the town, but were opposed to one operating on that site.

Councillors expressed strongly that they should have been consulted by Calderdale MBC at the time of the planning application to enlarge the existing windows in order to carry advertising. This application was approved.

Acknowledging that it was too late for HRTC to put in a formal objection to the Magistrate's hearing on Tuesday 6 December it was unanimously agreed to write a letter in support of objections already received, to be signed by individual Town Councillors.

Members of the public present for question time and the subsequent discussion on this issue were grateful to councillors for being ready to take this action.

Ladbrokes public meeting

Friday, November 25, 2005

Yesterday evening at Riverside School, there was a public meeting about the proposed takeover of the Yorkshire Bank building in Hebden Bridge by Ladbrokes. Strong feelings have been aroused by this issue, partly because the former Yorkshire Bank buildings is in a prime position at the centre of Hebden Bridge, and partly because Hebden Bridge topped the recent list of uncloned towns.

Although there has been a heated debate on the Hebweb discussion forum about the pros and cons of this development, all those who spoke at the meeting were solidly against the proposal. It was reported that Calderdale Council Plannning Committee had, on Tuesday evening, given the go-ahead for changes to the shop front.

The meeting, chaired by Cllr Beacroft-Mitchell, was told that the main hope of preventing Ladbrokes at this stage was the hearing to grant or reject a betting licence on Tuesday, 6th December at Halifax Magistrates Court. People were urged to attend and speak.

Cllr. Nader Fekri pointed out that magistrates courts rarely uphold objections. And that Ladbrokes might not mind if few people actually used the proposed betting shop as it would give them a permanent hoarding in a prime position; thousands of cars would see it every day.

Discussion centred on strategies for opposing the development and focused on: the closeness of two primary schools; there would be little demand for a second betting shop in the town; the vulnerability of 18-24 year olds in particular to gambling addiction; letting in chained stores might seriously raise shop rents in the town.

See also

Discussion thread on Ladbrokes

Hebden Bridge tops list of towns with most local identity


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