Outcry against Barnet gambling arcade - Tuesday 27th of May 2008

The proposed conversion of a Mothercare shop in Barnet town centre into an amusement and gaming arcade has sparked an angry outcry from residents.

Fifty-six of the 119 households consulted have formally objected to the proposal, which would transform 129 High Street into a centre housing a collection of fruit machines, arcade and gaming machines.

Barnet Society chairman Barry Blain urged Barnet Council to reject the application from Agora Gaming.

He said: "Certainly the view is that this is a retrograde step.

"It is the wrong sort of shop to bring to Barnet.

"Plus its another nail in the coffin for the High Street, which already needs rejuvenating.

"Barnet Council should refuse this application. It is wholly inappropriate."

Strafford Road resident Eamonn Rafferty, 50, added: "A gaming centre is out of context with the area.

"Barnet High Street needs economic investment, but Barnet does not need, want or desire a shop like that."

Conservative Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers echoed residents concerns.

She said: "It is worrying if shops are closing and being replaced by this kind of establishment.

"It is not the right direction for the High Street. There are all sorts of retail outlets that would be far more preferable."

An Agora Gaming spokesman said the company, which owns 130 gaming stores around the country, should not be confused with "low cost, tacky operators".

He added: "Agora is one of the largest gaming companies in the UK.

"It is professionally run, and is a very nice establishment and compliant with the regulations.

"We have no history of disorder with youths. Our main clientele are women.

"Its a very pleasant place, selling food and drink. Most shoppers tend to use our centres as a leisure facility."

He said the renovation budget would be around £500,000.

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