Bolton Council rejects payday loan firm from Newport Street
A PAYDAY loan company has been told it cannot open a shop in one of Bolton’s busiest streets.
Planning bosses have rejected Oakam Money’s application to set up shop in Newport Street.
The company, which offers short-term loans with interest rates of 676.6 per cent, wanted to open in the former Varanni shoe shop.
Poverty campaigners have welcomed the decision.
Cllr Kate Lewis, the council’s lead member on anti-poverty, said: “This is really positive news for our town centre.
“The last thing we need in Bolton is another high-cost pay day lender or pay weekly store on Newport Street.”
Planning officers said the application to change the shop from a retail space to one providing financial and professional services would have meant more than a quarter of Newport Street was being used for non-retail purposes, which “would pose an unacceptable risk to the vitality and viability of Bolton town centre”.
David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, who has campaigned against payday loan companies, said: “We need proper, decent businesses that serve Bolton in the way they used to and attract people into the town centre.
“We want variety, not more of the same. It is in the best interest of the people of Bolton to use the credit union rather than payday loan companies.”
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David Batten, manager of Hoot Credit Union, added: “I’m glad the council are taking the problem of high-cost payday lending seriously and I know they are working with partners to provide easier affordable lending.”
Oakam Money operates in the Midlands and London but is reviewing potential locations across the country.
Its website says it offers “straightforward and simple financial services for people who might find it difficult to borrow from banks”.
Oakam Money has 230 staff, who speak more than 27 languages.
The website added: “We offer responsible access to affordable credit and are dedicated to serving our customers respectfully and in their language.”
Oakam’s head of marketing, Katharina Ströh, was unable to comment on whether the firm would appeal against the decision.
Cllr Andy Morgan, who sits on Bolton Council’s planning committee, said: “Every application is looked at on its own merits.
“This is about the proliferation of these types of shops. There are so many of them now. We had the same policy for takeaways. If there are too many and it’s detrimental to the public, then we have to consider the application very carefully.
“These shops generally serve the most vulnerable people in our town — people in desperate need — and if there are more of these shops then it makes it easy for them to access.
“What I would say to people who are in need of credit is to approach the credit union Bolton Hoot, the town’s own responsible lender.
“What is it we want in our town? We need a good retail offer which puts money back into the local economy — not these companies which take money out.”
Bolton Council has offered grants to encourage businesses back into the town centre, but this does not apply to takeaways, pound shops or bookmakers.
Businesses have been able to apply for two levels of grant — either £20,000 and below, or for bigger grants of more than £20,000.
The one-off £1.5 million will come from a funding pot set aside by the council for improvements to the town centre.
And Town Hall chiefs will plough £1 million into improving Newport Street.
It will be revamped to make it a more “welcoming” pedestrian route into the town centre, with work due to start in autumn and due for completion in early 2015.
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