City Hall urged to take robust approach as it updates gambling policy for first time in a decade

Norwich City Council is to update its gambling policy for the first time in a decade. Picture: James

Norwich City Council is to update its gambling policy for the first time in a decade. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2009

A 'heat map' of vulnerable areas is to be used to help gambling companies determine where to apply for new premises, as the city council updated its policy for the first time in more than a decade.

At a meeting on Tuesday, councillors debated a new gambling statement of principles - a set of guidelines designed to help the council control gambling in the city area.

Tony Shearman, Norwich City Council's licensing manager, told councillors the policy had not been reviewed since 2007, despite it needing updates every three years.

He said an independent consultant had been tasked with reviewing the policy and that part of this would include a guide to the areas of the city considered most vulnerable to gambling troubles, along with a 'heat map'.

This would then be used to inform gambling firms of where it would be most appropriate to apply for new premises.

Mr Shearman said: 'The profile of areas will be made available prior to application and will be expected to be used when companies do risk assessments.'

However, Ben Price, Green Party councillor for the Thorpe Hamlet ward, called on City Hall to be more robust in its approach.

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Citing draft policy from Ealing Borough Council in London, Mr Price said the council needed to take a tougher stance to licensing gambling venues.

He said: 'I think we need more robust wording in our policy to make sure companies are clear in the ways they intend to prevent their venues exacerbating crime or anti-social behaviour in their areas.'

Marion Maxwell, Labour and Co-operative councillor for the Crome ward, said she had concerns about the possibility of gambling venues being close to money lenders or 'places people could sell their watches', but conceded that this would be difficult to restrict.

Mr Shearman told members councils are generally expected to take 'a positive approach' to deciding gambling licence applications, and that 'moral and ethical considerations' could not be decisive factors.

Members agreed to open its proposed new guidelines to consultation for eight weeks in the new year, the dates of which are yet to be determined.