Brockley's Trial of the Century - Day 1

The hearing to consider the application to open a betting shop on Brockley Road began today and is expected to conclude tomorrow.

Local resident, Fiona Schofield, attended today's session along with a number of other residents opposed to the bookies.

The plans by Portland Bookmakers for the site of the old Homeview video shop have met with record levels of opposition - 137 individual letters of complaint were received by the magistrate.

However, according to Fiona, the only basis for rejecting the application was if it could be demonstrated that there was no demand for the service locally. Brockley Central always thought that it was impossible to prove a negative.

As a result, the hopes of residents (including those in Brockley Central Towers) who don't want yet-another bookies clogging up their high street, probably rest with the lawyers of Coral, who will argue that the local market simply doesn't justify the presence of a rival.

Portland's pitch is that they offer an altogether different experience from other bookmakers (and their potential rival, Coral, in particular), with "more sophisticated" punters relaxing in leather seats and enjoying a coffee while indulging in a personalised gambling service. We briefly imagined a cross between Moonbow Jakes and the Groucho with the odd horse race chucked in for good measure - a world away from the depressing, soulless stereotype. That fantasy lasted as long as it took us to download the photo gallery of their existing (Abbey Wood) branch on their website:

Hats off to them for seeking to put their case directly to residents of Brockley but you'd have to be a pretty keen gambler to spot the difference between that and a normal bookie, in our opinion.

Fortunately for Portland, they were able to produce three such characters, who attended to endorse the proposal. Fiona reports that Portland claimed to have leafletted homes in Ladywell to identify supporters.

We are prepared to believe that there is a qualitative difference between Portland and a.n. other bookie (or gambling at home, online, for that matter) but the fact remains that the target market is a tiny fraction of the local population, which is already pretty well catered for with gambling opportunities. Meanwhile, the fragile rejuvenation of the High Street hangs in the balance.

The hearing will almost certainly conclude tomorrow, so this will likely be an academic exercise, but we would be genuinely interested to hear from any readers who support Portland's plans other than on libertarian grounds.