Concern over proposals to turn historic Boston shop unit into a gambling centre

Residents in Boston are ‘horrified’ at proposals to turn a prominent and ‘historic’ shop unit into a 24-hour gambling centre.

The proposed changes to the frontage of 14-16 Strait Bargate, Boston, showing the Merkur Slots signage.
The proposed changes to the frontage of 14-16 Strait Bargate, Boston, showing the Merkur Slots signage.

The former Clarks shop, located at 14-16 Strait Bargate, dates back to 1932. It has been vacant since the footwear retailer left the town in 2016.

An application for the unit to become a coffee shop was made in 2017. It was approved, but never went ahead.

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Now a planning application has been submitted to Boston Borough Council by Merkur Slots UK Ltd, to change the use of the unit from retail to ‘adult gaming centre’.

Merkur Slots already runs an adult gaming venue on West Street.

Linda Taylor, of Fishtoft, emailed us to say: “I am horrified that Boston Borough Council should even consider these applications for the business and advertising signage.

"We are constantly being told that gambling addiction in the UK is on the increase and gambling slots is one of the main sources of addiction.”

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The former Clarks shop is a very prominent and historic building in the town centre, it would be such a shame to see it turned into a gambling shop.”

The council asked for a noise assessment to be carried out on the old building to assess ‘sound insulation performance and potential noise impacts from patron activity’ at the site.

The assessment was carried out by Archo Consulting who recommended a number of changes be made to the premises to prevent ‘noise breakout’.

Noise level assessments carried out on two similar centres in Hull owned by Merkur showed them to have 'no noise impacts'.

Merkur’s planning application states: "In relation to the character of the area, the unit has now been vacant since December 2016 and there is no evidence of a temporary use in the interceding years. As such, it has not been able to contribute to the vitality and viability of the Primary Shopping Area for five and a half years.

"The occupation of this unit will improve footfall and attract more users to the Primary Shopping Frontage, to the benefit of nearby operators, many of which are retail. The proposals will contribute towards the garnering of a vibrant town centre and represent a much-needed vote of confidence in the town centre, where economic conditions have been exacerbated in recent years due to Covid-19."

Merkur says 'the nature of high streets has changed', adding "Merkur AGCs attract people into centres and generate good levels of footfall.

"ACGs are where people go to spend their spare change, have a game of bingo and enjoy their favourite pastime (these machines have been around for many years).

"The machines generate low levels of noise, only background music is played (similar to shops) and there are no tannoy systems," the firm claims.

Merkur emphasises that AGCs are ‘not the same as betting shops’ – adding: “There is a widespread misunderstanding of how AGCs operate and who our customers are. We want to address these misconceptions and demonstrate that a new AGC on your local high street is a good thing. Our machines offer low stakes ranging from 10p to a maximum of £2.”

The council has been approached for a comment.