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Police object to arcade opening

By Paul Ainsworth

POLICE patrols in the wider Balmoral area could suffer if a proposed gambling arcade is opened in a South Belfast estate, the PSNI have warned. The concerns have been revealed in correspondence between the PSNI and Belfast City Council where cops said that should the arcade planned for the Erinvale area go ahead, it could lead to a rise in crime against both local residents and business owners.

The South Belfast News has obtained correspondence from the Balmoral Neighbourhood Policing Team to City Hall, in which police warn against the granting of a licence for the amusement arcade in the Finaghy estate.

A special meeting of the council’s Licensing Committee is to take place this week, where members will discuss the ongoing row over the controversial plans, which have prompted over 200 letters of objection from neighbours, some of whom could soon see the arcade operating yards from their front doors.

Locals opposing the application have stated the business proposal is “out of character” for their area, and hope to quash the application similar to a previous plan for a bookmakers at the same site several years ago.

However, now the PSNI are making the claims about a possible rise in crime should the arcade open in Erinvale, and warn that keeping tabs on the area could use up valuable police patrol time in other areas of South Belfast.

“Police would suggest that the opening of an amusement arcade shall lead to an increase of anti-social behaviour and crime in the area, and increase the fear of anti-social behaviour and crime against the local residents and retailers,” a member of the Balmoral PSNI team said.

“There have been a number of incidents during the past year and police have concerns that an increase in incidents shall necessitate additional patrol time in the area of Erinvale shops. This, in turn, shall be to the detriment of other residents and retailers in the greater Balmoral area.”

The arcade has already been given the green light by the Planning Service – a decision which cased uproar among locals . However the applicant, businessman Colin Cavan, has denied the claims made about a possible increase in trouble surrounding the premises, insisting that the establishment would cater strictly to over-18s, and would be a responsible newcomer to the Finaghy business community.

Yet police have taken the step of requesting that should the licence be granted, entry be restricted to those aged 21 and over, and that the arcade be monitored for a “probationary” period of six months.

Erinvale resident Norman Campbell said: “This objection backs our concerns and what we have been saying since this proposal came to light. Erinvale is not a suitable place for such a business, and locals don’t want it on their doorstep.”

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