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Councillors bid for more input over arcade sites

By Paul Ainsworth

LOCAL councillors are aiming to get more power in tackling controversial applications for amusement arcades, which are causing headaches across South Belfast.

There are currently three separate proposals for arcades containing gambling machines in the south of the city, each facing staunch opposition from infuriated residents who claim the outlets would impact on the local community.

However, the council are currently developing an ‘Amusement Permit Policy’ which will allow them more powers to prevent applications which have already been given a green light by the Planning Service.

A draft document is being considered by councillors who hope the policy will help them further identify areas where such applications would cause issues among locals, such as on the Stranmillis and Ormeau roads, and in the Erinvale estate, where applications for arcades are ‘live’.

Chairman of the Council’s Licencing Committee Tom Ekin said the local authority – which is responsible for granting gaming permits, required “more teeth” in confronting applications that have sparked rage among residents.

“The law has previously prevented us from doing anything more on what the planners have already approved,” he said.

“This will allow us to take into consideration further the feelings of the residents who have to live close to these establishments. We are discussing this document with legal advisors to make it as useful as possible. We need more teeth in dealing with these arcades, which for the most part are not wanted in residential areas.”

Erinvale resident Norman Campbell, who is leading the local fight against a proposed arcade in the heart of the Finaghy estate, said this week that he welcomed the new draft document.

“Measures such as this give us confidence that councillors really are in favour of helping those who face living alongside arcades which we believe can encourage an increase in anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“In our case we are preparing for a meeting at City Hall soon, where we can discuss this issue, and I hope the new Permit Policy will be implemented as soon as possible, to help other areas facing the same problem.”


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