Casino plans criticised

A CHURCH leader fears families may be driven from a holiday resort if plans to transform a strip of shops into a gamblers' paradise get the green light.

A CHURCH leader fears families may be driven from a holiday resort if plans to transform a strip of shops into a gamblers' paradise get the green light.

Applications to turn three decades old Clacton amusement arcades into slot-machine casinos are set to be approved by Tendring District Council on Tuesday.

But this has left residents worried the tourist end of Pier Avenue may become a Las Vegas type strip.

The move by Marshall Amusements, Mitonsede Ltd and Gaiety (Clacton) Ltd comes ahead of Government legislation to relax the country's gambling laws and follows a similar successful application from a restaurant in the town last year.

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However, yesterday, a vicar for the same parish as the proposed gambling area said he was not sure the casinos would add to the town's family reputation.

The Rev David Titley, vicar at St Paul's Church, said: "I do not want to see Clacton become a major gambling centre - I want to see the town as a resort for all the family.

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"I doubt whether having a lot of casinos here would add to that because they're not for all the family. Amusement arcades are one thing, but with casinos gambling becomes very serious."

Tendring district councillor Pierre Oxley expressed doubts whether the casinos would ever become a reality.

The Conservative councillor for St Paul's, said: "Let's face it, the owners know that legally we can't turn down their planning permission, but they're never going to get approval to become casinos."

Billy Peak, the man behind two of the applications, for Marshalls Amusements and Mitonsede Ltd, refuted Mr Oxley's comments.

He said: "My applications are just a business decision in preparation for Government legislation, nobody knows what that will be yet, so we can't make any grand plans of what sort of casino will or will not be allowed."

"Reports that Clacton will be the new Las Vegas are vastly overstated.

"Those arcades have stood there for decades."

Terry McKean, secretary to the Clacton Chamber of Commerce, said: "The casinos will brighten the place up. We just want more trade in the town for people wanting to earn a living.

"It's not up to us how to run the place and say who can or can't come here– there's enough sea and sand for everybody."

Once planning permission is granted by the council, the owners still need approval from the Gaming Board for Great Britain, and that is only on the assumption the new legislation, which may not even figure in this year's Queen Speech, finally becomes law.

A similar application from W&T L Ball and Sons for the Sunspot Amusement Arcade in Brooklands, Jaywick, to become a casino is likely to be turned down at Tuesday's meeting because council officers have said the increase in noise in a residential area away from the main tourist centre would be unacceptable.

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