Town council snubbed as historic Wisbech pub gets betting shop green light

AN historic Grade-II listed building in Wisbech is to become a betting shop after a planning inspector ruled it could help the “vitality” of the town.

William Hill bookmakers successfully appealed against Fenland District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission at 35 Market Place, Wisbech - the site of the former George Inn pub.

The 16th century building located within Wisbech Conservation Area will now become a bookmakers, having previously been a shoe shop.

The council had refused planning permission in December after ruling that the change of use was “unlikely to contribute to the vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole”.

There was opposition from Wisbech Town Council, who expressed concerns about a “further betting shop and the impact on social welfare”.

There was objections to the appearance of a betting shop frontage in such a significant site and suggestions that it could cause a “cumulative impact of loss of retail premises from the town centre.”

In the original refusal, reference to The Fenland Retail Study 2009 showed that Wisbech town centre had declined since the previous study, slipping from 382nd place in 2004 to 511th place in 2008.

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It was advised that “any further out of town centre retailing in Wisbech or loss of retail units within the town centre is likely to adversely affect the health of the town centre”.

But planning inspector John Millard ruled that the betting shop could help the town.

In his decision, he said: “Customer footfall at betting offices, a key measure of vitality, ranks among the highest of all the town centre uses, well ahead of many types of retail shop, and that the majority of those who visit betting offices do so as part of a wider shopping trip.

“It seems to me that a use which attracts a significant number of actual or potential customers into the heart of the town’s primary retail area can have only a beneficial effect in terms of vitality and viability.”