Slot machine shop told it cannot open 24/7 over fears it would send town ‘into the gutter’

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

A gaming centre has had an application to stay open 24/7 refused by a council, as residents worried it may encourage “drug dealing” and send the town centre “into the gutter”.

Bexley council has refused plans to extend the hours of an adult gaming centre in Welling to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The business, called Merkur Slots, is located in Bellegrove Road and currently has permission to be open from 9am to 11pm daily.

The topic was discussed at a planning committee meeting for Bexley council on Thursday, with councillors expressing concerns about the potential for anti-social behaviour and disturbances to neighbours in the area.

One objection from a local was summarised in council documents as: “Concerns with anti-social behaviour e.g. littering, loitering, noise disturbance, drug dealing, graffiti, fly tipping and the alleyway next to the betting shop being used as a toilet.”

Ms Clark, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said at the meeting that the gaming centre had stayed open without any issues since it opened nearly three years ago. She said the centre does not serve booze and carries out a Think 25 entrance policy.

She said: “There is no demonstrable evidence to suggest that extended hours here would give rise to or cause any significant increase in anti-social behaviour, and the venue will therefore contribute to the night time economy.”

Conservative Councillor Nigel Betts, who represents the Falconwood and Welling ward for Bexley Council, said in council documents that he did not feel Welling was a “24/7 town centre”.

He said gambling was a “blight” on the local community and should not be encouraged.

Cllr Betts said: “We want Welling to be a vibrant shopping centre and not be driven down into the gutter by this sort of development.”

She said a sound assessment had also been carried out to determine the potential noise impact from the changes. Ms Clark added that council officers had accepted the findings of this assessment.

At the meeting, the planning committee voted to refuse permission for the gaming centre to extend its hours in an 8-2 vote.

Pictured top: Merkur Slots, as seen on Bellegrove Road in Welling (Picture: Google Earth)

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