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Merkur Slots win battle for all night opening at Huntingdon

Planning inspector says Cambridgeshire police had no record of any crime or anti-social behaviour incidents

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Merkur Slots has won the right to stay open throughout the night at its gambling centre in High Street, Huntingdon. The Planning Inspectorate has allowed an appeal from the company that removes a condition imposed by Huntingdonshire District Council when permission for the 49 High Street store to open in 2022 was granted.

The condition imposed by planners – but now lifted – restricted opening hours from 7am to midnight.

The council had argued this would “minimise noise disturbance for adjoining residents”.

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But planning inspector A M Nilsson has allowed the appeal.

He has given permission for a trial period of two years.

Mr Nilsson said the main issue to consider was whether the restriction was necessary.

Merkur Slots has been permission for a trial period of two years to stay open all night at Huntingdon.

Merkur Slots has been permission for a trial period of two years to stay open all night at Huntingdon.

In August 2021 planning permission for an adult gaming centre (AGC) use was granted for the ground floor of No 49, subject to conditions including one limiting the hours of opening to between 7 am and 12 midnight daily.

He said the AGC opened in February 2022 giving nearly two years’ experience of its operation.

“Unfortunately, no estimates are provided of likely customer numbers for the midnight – 7 am period given the number of visitors during current opening hours and experience elsewhere,” said the inspector.

“The council’s primary concern is that opening during the night would lead to noise and disturbance to nearby residents, but no evidence is offered of existing problems in the late evening or at closing time which might suggest that there could be a significant issue in the small hours.”

Mr Nilsson said police had no record of any crime or anti-social behaviour incidents associated with the AGC use and raised no objections “subject to three conditions to ensure adequate security.

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“Apparently on one occasion entry was refused to a drunk member of the public but this was in line with the company’s security policy”.

The inspector said a noise assessment submitted with the application observes that with commercial premises on both sides and above the AGC the nearest noise sensitive receptor is a first-floor residential window on the High Street some 15 m away to the west.

“Based on actual internal noise readings and an inspection of the structure the report concludes that the building envelope would sufficiently attenuate any internal noise transmission to avoid adversely impacting neighbouring properties,” he said.

“The noise environment in the High Street outside the premises at 1 am was affected by the occasional vehicle movement and pedestrian, with the most likely sources from the proposal being noise escaping from the front door when opened and customers talking outside whilst smoking.

“The experience of other Merkur Slots premises, not disputed by the council, is that customers generally come singly or in pairs.

“The report’s worst-case analysis concludes that at the nearest residential window noise levels arising from three people talking loudly outside the front door would be about 45.4 dBA, well below the figure which might breach the recommended internal noise level for a bedroom during the night”.

Mr Nilsson said the council’s environmental health officers do not dispute these findings and the proposal is unlikely to cause a significant adverse noise impact subject to good management practice.

“However, every location is different and the apparent experience of Merkur Slots premises in Camberwell, Hull and Boston may not be replicated in Huntingdon,” said Mr Nilsson.

“Whilst opposed by the council, in the circumstances the obvious solution is for midnight to 7 am opening to be allowed for a trial period.”

This would enable an accurate assessment to be made of customer numbers and the level of noise nuisance and/or anti-social behaviour, if any, to be accurately assessed before a final decision is made.

The inspector said the council argued that a trial would be hard to monitor but Merkur supports such an approach and offers examples of trial 24 hour opening elsewhere.

 

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