Sadiq's column in the South London Press on Friday 6th December 2013.
Full text below:
This month another planning application was submitted to Wandsworth Council seeking to open yet another betting shop on the Tooting High Street - one of several to open in Tooting this year. This is a problem not unique to Tooting, but is quickly becoming a problem across London, as many readers of SLP are only too aware.
As the MP for Tooting, alongside my constituents, I have voiced my objections to these applications on numerous occasions - but recent Government legislation means it is very difficult for anyone to stop a betting shop from opening, despite the strength of local feeling.
The Conservative-led government changed the rules on High Street planning. The result of this has seen twice as many betting shops open on our High Streets as all the cinemas, museums, galleries and bowling alleys added together! Although we still have a number of diverse and successful local businesses here in Tooting, this makes me really worried about the future of our High Street in Tooting, and across London. Under the new rules a pound shop can open in a post office, and a local pub could be turned into a supermarket, without the need for change of use permission. This is a problem local campaigners and I have faced firsthand, as part of the campaign to Save The Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec from a supermarket takeover.
As someone who was born and grew up in Tooting, I know that our local businesses are the lifeblood of our community. Just last week I had the honour of presenting my first ever employers (from when I was a paperboy) – Nilesh and Reena Patel of Nilkanrai newsagents – with an award for their service to the community. And this weekend I’ll be behind the counter at the brilliant Bertie and Boo’s in Balham, as part of ‘Small Business Saturday’. Come along for a coffee!
But these new laws aren’t helping our High Street, they are hurting it. Too many betting shops, pawnbrokers and payday lenders can put people off from shopping on our High Street and other retailers from setting up business there. The local community has had enough, and so have I - that’s why I’m launching my campaign to ‘Save Our High Street’. I am asking people to sign my petition to David Cameron and Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling on the Government to give local communities more power to shape our High Street and the power to say NO.
If SLP readers share my concerns, show your support for my campaign by visiting my website www.sadiqkhan.org.uk.