Hammersmith and Fulham Labour has challenged the leading Tory group to curb the ‘unchecked spread’ of betting shops threatening the borough’s high streets.
The opposition party called on the council to use its planning powers to control the ‘rampant growth’ of betting, loan and payday lender shops across the borough.
Ben Coleman, Labour’s small business champion, highlighted that there are 16 such shops in just one 500m stretch of North End Road, Fulham, surrounded by a growing number of empty units.
Mr Coleman said: “Neighbourhoods need the right places to shop, eat and drink. Yet in North End Road and across the borough, growing clusters of betting and loan shops are threatening our high streets by deterring investment from other businesses.
“We need a comprehensive approach that encourages retailers and improves neighbourhoods.
“Labour will help residents take back their high streets by requiring betting and loan shops to apply for planning permission.”
Deputy council leader Greg Smith said allowing betting shops was better than leaving units empty, and that the authority was helping to attract small businesses by introducing more stop-and-shop parking bays in Fulham Road, Wandsworth Bridge Road and Askew Road.
The government changed the law in May last year so that planning permission was no longer needed to turn high street shops, cafes and restaurants into betting or loan shops.
However, local authorities can opt to retain control, which Hammersmith and Fulham Council has chosen not to do.
Mr Smith said: “It’s a fundamental difference between the Labour and Conservative parties. They want to control how people should behave and run a business but the Conservative Party believes in freedom.
“We have a choice to leave shops empty, economically inactive, or to allow a betting firm to open which can employ people, boost the local economy by providing jobs and whose staff may buy a sandwich from a shop next door.
“Councils and governments can’t just magic up shops and jobs. What we can do is to ensure the right environment for investment such as the stop-and-shop bays this council has introduced.”
Mr Smith said this has helped many independent businesses move into empty shops in Fulham Road, between Parsons Green Lane and Munster Road, and create a thriving shopping parade.