Town Hall anger at bookies plan

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A view of Liverpool Town Hall from Castle Steet © DaveWoodLiverpoolImages/CreativeCommons/Flickr

A major bookmaker has sparked controversy with proposals to open a betting shop across the road from Liverpool Town Hall.

Betting firm Ladbrokes has applied for planning permission to carry out a £170,000 revamp of the former Starbucks cafe on the corner of Castle Street.

Ladbrokes have commented that the work will be handled ‘sensitively’ and that the shop will create up to seven jobs.

Although the company has made assurances that it will not use its standard signs, heritage campaigners and councillors have spoken out in opposition to these plans.

They think if the vacant shop is converted it would be “affront to the city’s civic dignity”.

Councillor Nick Small, a cabinet member for enterprise and skills who represents the Central ward, has written a letter objecting to this move.

He has complained that this change is not in keeping with the character of the listed building and would therefore detract from the heritage of Castle Street and surrounding area.

He told JMU Journalism: “Castle Street is one of Liverpool’s most historic streets and part of the World Heritage Site and is recognised as such as part of the new City Centre Strategic Investment Framework.

“Changing the use of the building to allow its use as a betting shop and permitting Ladbrokes to put up a large satellite dish will detract from the unique heritage of Liverpool.

“There is a William Hill betting shop further down Castle Street, but this is much more discreet. The former Starbucks is a key gateway location opposite the Town Hall with a large shopfront.”

Councillors agreed at a recent Neighbourhood Select Committee meeting that there were too many betting shops .

They demanded greater powers to control the spread of bookies across the city.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: “We are very conscious of the building’s unique nature and intend to deal with it sensitively without using our standard signage.

“We will make no changes to the windows which we believe to be an excellent feature of the building.

“The satellite dish will be at the rear of the building and totally out of view.

“We will be spending around £170,000 on the premises, creating up to seven new jobs and helping to generate increased footfall for other businesses.”

Starbucks ceased trading and vacated the property at the end of October.

In 2009, supermarket giant Tesco was forced to withdraw its plans to build an Express branch on Hope Street in the face of public objections.

Tesco withdrew its planning application as it was deemed that its designs were not in keeping with the historic street and conservation area.

About Joshua Nevett, JMU Journalism