Showman bets on reversing town gaming arcade refusal
A SHOWMAN who was refused planning permission for an adult gaming centre in a former town centre shop is appealing, claiming the decision is “not credible and biased”.
Henry Danter - the Whitchurch-based owner of Symonds Yat West Leisure Park and Barry Island Pleasure Park - wants to change the use of the old DS Music store at the top of Monmouth’s Monnow Street, overlooking the historic Agincourt Square.
In a storm of protest last year, 400 people signed a petition opposing the conservation zone scheme, while planners received nearly 300 letters and emails objecting to the building being used for a slot machine arcade.
Monmouthshire Council planners refused permission last August on the grounds that it would harm the “vitality, attractiveness and viability” of the central shopping area and town centre, and raised doubts over how it intended to attract customers.
The decision came despite the council’s licensing department having already granted a gaming license for the premises to the Whitchurch-based showman, who wants to call the business Carousel.
Now the 77-year-old has appealed to the Welsh Government planning inspector to overturn the council decision, saying he has owned the building – currently displaying window-sized adverts for Barry Island – for more than 30 years and previously ran a “very successful wine bar” there.
He claims the council was wrongly “swayed” by comments from people who simply don’t want an arcade in Monmouth, and is ready to speak “face to face” to put his case at a public hearing.
In his appeal statement, Mr Danter says “every effort was made to sell or lease” the building after the music business decided to leave, but without success.
He also “objected most strongly” to the council’s argument about “footfall”, saying the two high street adult gaming centres he owns in Stourport-on-Severn town centre both had “comparable” footfall with any other shop there.
“It is not realistic to keep letting shops out as charity outlets… Surely some footfall is better than no footfall,” he adds, and rejected claims that the arcade would cause “local disturbance”.
“The licence to operate was granted after careful consideration as to my ability to operate properly,” he continues.
“The industry is very highly regulated and suggestions… about attracting children of school age and the vulnerable are completely untrue.”
He told the inspector he had spent thousands of pounds on camera surveillance equipment and the premises would be monitored to prevent unauthorised access to those under 21.
Mr Danter also said there would be no noise onto the street, views into the arcade, minimal advertising, and no “adverse” visual impact.
He further described claims that people would “congregate” outside as “most unreasonable”.
“The council quite happily accept that there are public houses opening onto the square, with no mention of the disturbance it can bring.”
He also says adult gaming centres ”do not encourage dangerous or harmful levels of gambling and are highly regulated”, compared to scratch cards with no regulation and online gambling with little regulation.
The town council and chamber of trade both opposed the change of use last year, and Monmouth MP David Davies also weighed in, saying that while he had no authority in the planning process, there were concerns from constituents that pupils from secondary schools could be enticed into gambling by the presence of the arcade.
Objections from residents claimed that it would be an eyesore that would damage the town’s character, encourage gambling among the young, create anti-social behaviour and noise, and make the pinch point at the top of the high street more unsafe.
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