New William Hill betting shop to open in Washington's The Galleries after plans approved for former newsagents

Plans for a new betting shop at a Washington shopping centre have been given the green light by city development chiefs.

Back in June, 2022, Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application for a unit at The Galleries shopping centre in Washington Town Centre.

This included a bid from bookmakers chain William Hill to open a new betting shop at the site, as well as carry out work to create a new secondary entrance and external signage.

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The plans proposed access via the main shopping centre doors and a separate standalone entrance door and display window on the external elevation of the shopping centre.

A new business is set to open at The Galleries. Picture c/o Google Streetview.

Ground floor ‘Unit 1C’ is located within the western section of the shopping centre, adjacent to the western pedestrian entrance.

According to planning documents, it was last occupied by a branch of McColls newsagents, but is said to have been vacant for more than six months.

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During consultation on the plans, two objections to the application were received, with one stating the proposal represented an “over-concentration” of betting shops in the town centre, as there are “two betting shop operations” nearby.

Questions were also raised about the level of marketing to secure another retail operator for the unit, as well as concerns about the plan “facilitating increased levels of gambling in the community”.

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The two objections were made on behalf of existing businesses / operators within Washington Town Centre, although the respective operators were not named.

An agent for the applicant, responding in a consultation document, said the plans would result in “2.2% of all units within Washington Town Centre operating as betting shops”– a “marginal increase” of 0.7%.

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The applicant’s agent added there was “no policy basis to require marketing evidence to justify the proposals or to secure a retail operator for the site in this case”.

The consultation response also said the plans were supported by the landlord for The Galleries and would “attract new footfall and trade”.

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After considering the planning application and assessing it against planning policies, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved the William Hill betting shop plan on September 16, 2022.

A decision report prepared by council planners deemed the scheme acceptable and said it was “not the function of the LPA (local planning authority) to limit competitive opportunities”.

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The decision report adds: “The unit which is the subject of this application is located within an existing shopping centre which is a managed facility where there are active frontages and on-site security and natural surveillance.

“The proposed development would assist in bringing the vacant building back into use.

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“The application has been assessed in line with local and national planning policy and would not have a negative impact on amenity of existing and future occupiers or visitors to the locality and as such is considered acceptable in this respect.”

A planning application also states the betting shop would create four full-time jobs and two part-time roles.

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For more information on the plans, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/01380/FUL