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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Turf Accountants

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. 

More licensing, bansturbation and prodnose control isn't the answer. Intelligent enabling is the way to do it.  


cuffleyburgers said...

I had the misfortune to hear the article in question, and as so often with the beeb ending up shouting at the radio, thus frightening one of my cats who ran and hid upstairs; the dogs on the other hand are used to it by now and barely stirred.

BrianSJ said...

(poss re-post due to google error and mobile number obsession)
Betting shops have to compete with (their own) online betting. Are they surviving because they provide a social setting for the price of the marginal difference in odds (given that the pub has been killed by its cost base)?

Edward Spalton said...

I have to admit that the "gambling industry" brings out the puritan in me. It is based on the hope of gain for no effort and I see its spread and prominence as one sign of national decline.

The campaigners who abolished the slave trade looked around for the next campaign and decided to abolish the (then) national lottery. That would be a start today!

Apart from keeping us out of the euro, Gordon Brown did one good thing. He vetoed the plans for a series of giant casinos around the country. In Blair-speak, these projects were to "regenerate" urban areas but the residual touch of Calvinism in Brown saw them off - and a very good thing too.

Large scale gambling and similar activities are closely associated with money laundering, prostitution and other nasties.

Anonymous said...

Joined up thinking and large councils.

I note that one of the type of highstreet shops councils would like to see is more 'bookshops' - kindle or haven't they heard?

There again, I suppose they deem that shutting the libraries will encourage people to buy books. Though, firstly they should consider actually teaching the local populace the ability to read.
But then, visiting bookshops these days, inside - how many do you see of most of the hundreds of thousands of new arrivals these councils do so much to encourage. Picking up the latest Jordan/Katey Price tell all - would be tantamount to buying a literary work penned by 'old nick'.

More shops, that's funny, business rates kill shops and market stalls, haven't they heard?

I live near a very big city, they're just finishing ANOTHER big shiny shopping centre - the empty shops surrounding this new 'facility' gape at the site like toothless gargoyles.
At the South side of the city centre, they're planning a new.....guess what - yes a NEW SHOPPING MALL, bread and circuses is so yesterday, internet shopping - or haven't they heard?

The mother of all recessions is on and apace and going downhill - or haven't they heard?

What planet do metropolitan councillors and their 'advisors' inhabit - it's time they all went back home.

Anonymous said...

Frodsham Street, Chester, 1960-70. A nice upmarket street in an upmarket town. Now it has three bookies, two pawn shops and a Yates Winelodge. All the good shops were driven out by high rates. Then Tesco moved in. A hideous carbuncle in a Roman city. Having a Tesco near you is like having an oak tree in your garden. Everything around the tree withers and dies because the giant soak up the nutrients. Our town planners haven't a feckin clue.

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

"Our town planners haven't a feckin clue."

Town planners....manipulative societal re-engineering Trotskyite scumbags don't you mean?

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree.

May it not be the case that all the other shops have been driven away by high business rates, anti-car policies, horrible redevelopments in the 60s anbd 70s, and bad maintenance.

Of course, there is the impact of supermarkets and shopping centres. But then they wouldn't be built if no one wanted to go to them.

Bookies and takeaways are essentially local. Not sure about clusters of bookies - certainly not true of Hackney where I live. I also don't see much of a connection between bookies and strip clubs.



Anonymous said...

By the way, I don't want to be anonymous, just can't work out to show my name and emial address as with other blogs.