A debate on R4's 'today' on the alleged increasing dominance of High Streets by bookies (betting shops, or bookmakers and turf accountants in old-speak) presents the issue as one that can be determined by planning or licensing controls. As ever, the issue is both broader and more complex than this. In getting rid of the dingy yellow dens rendolent with the scent of baccy, sweat and old socks and replacing them with bright, clean shops in bold colours the bookie firms have ensured their own survival when others on the High Street have gone to the wall, but this is by no means the only reason for their greater visibility.
Urban shopping parades are dependent for their success and composition on one major factor - passing footfall. If you create a street frontage busy with people, it will attract better shops. This is also linked to parking opportunities; the more attractive and varied the walking-experience, the further people are prepared to park from their destination shop. Providing parking spaces right outside popular destination shops actually can help kill whole frontages of shops and can set off a downward spiral of commercial abandonment and decreasing footfall.
At the bottom end of the scale in urban areas is the 'just sustainable' grouping of bookie, off-licence, newsagent and fried chicken shop. As street footfall increases so chemists, cafes, ethnic restaurants, dry cleaners and bakers find a toehold. You need a lot of passing people to sustain the chain multiples or larger independents, typically found in 'town' centres. Marginal shops in busy areas can oscillate between charity shops and low-capital investment outlets such as bookies.
The answer to the success or otherwise of shopping streets lies largely with local councils, and the intelligence with which they facilitate and locate short stay parking, the quality of the walking environment (safety, cleanliness, lighting, comfort, convenience) and the interest at ground level of a lively and attractive range of shopfronts; where people want to walk shops will open. The most attractive frontages will enable short-stay parking to be located up to 200m away from the most popular destination shops.