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Can we have something useful? Debate over what should take place of Queen’s Crescent betting shop

Property agents say 99.99 percent chance against prime unit being another bookies

24 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

AN estate agent has said there is “literally nil” chance of another betting shop moving in after the recent closure of a William Hill bookies, sparking a debate over what should happen to the empty unit.

Businesses and community groups have told how they hope a change of use for the Queen’s Crescent building, on the corner of Ashdown Crescent, will stop people congregating outside.

Over the years, passers-by have said they have felt intimidated by bad behaviour there. William Hill is closing outlets nationwide after the maximum stake on roulette machines known as “fixed odds betting terminals” was capped at £2, although it is planning to open a new shop in Malden Road.

Foyezur Miah, chief executive of the nearby Queen’s Crescent Community Centre, said: “I do not want it to be another betting shop. People have been talking about wanting it to be a fishmongers, or another florist or toy shop. And if it could be a community facility, that would be fantastic.”

The premises is on the market through estate agent Dutch and Dutch with £32,500 annual rent.

Tony Matthews, a company director, said: “The likelihood of a betting office is literally nil as they are all closing down rather than opening up. The likelihood is 99.99 per cent against.”

He added: “From our point of view, and from the landlord’s point of view, we want to make sure we find somebody who complies with planning if they do want a change of use.”

Inside the stripped out William Hill unit in Queen’s Crescent

Gospel Oak Labour councillor Jenny Mulholland said she would like to see the council buy the unit, open it as a community hub and let local people decide what to do with the space.

“Everyone here wants Queen’s Crescent to be safe and successful,” she said. “They want to see the market thriving again and more for young people to do.”

Debbi Clark, founder of charity the Sir Hubert von Herkomer Arts Foundation, behind the old betting shop, said she had been to look around it to see if they could expand.

She added: “I would love to take it on but it’s a lot of money for us. I don’t want it to be another betting shop, or a chicken shop, as you’ve already got a lot of fast-food on the street. A gallery with really good sustainable food would be a good idea. If I could create a community space for young people who have nowhere to go to have a place to be, I would be interested in raising money to take the space on.”

Alice Brown, secretary at the Friends of Queen’s Crescent group, said a “really useful shop” would be good for the street and its economy. And she also backed the idea of it becoming a community space.

“We would love to see the space used as a market hall, with some internal market stalls, space for storage of tables and chairs for market days – al fresco dining in the Crescent – and maybe a public WC and changing area so people can try on clothes,” Ms Brown added.

Tom Battersby, who has been licensee of the Sir Robert Peel pub for 20 years, said: “It’s a hard one to call that area. It could do well as a good quality restaurant.”

Zarra Bey, a manager at Delichio’s cafe, suggested an affordable clothes shop.

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