THE operators of a bookies which has just opened in Taunton, despite opposition from the council, say it will boost the community.

Paddy Power's move into the former Gamestation shop in North Street was originally blocked as there are already several betting shops around town.

But the Irish-based firm successfully appealed against Taunton Deane Council's refusal on the grounds of “over proliferation of non-retail units” and “adverse impact on the retail function of the town centre”.

A Government inspector concluded that the shop represented a “limited increase in non-retail uses” and would help “sustain the vitality and viability of the primary shopping area”.

Cllr Jefferson Horsley, LibDem Opposition leader at Deane House, said: “Having so many betting shops is a symptom of the fact we're not doing so well.

“Taunton enjoys fewer vacant shops than the national average but it shouldn't be about quantity - quality is what's important.

“People who come to Taunton expect a higher quality offer in the prime shopping area.”

A spokeswoman for the Conservativerun authority said: “Betting shops require a licence from the council in accordance with the Gambling Act 2005.

“But, unlike the planning process, the council is prevented from rejecting a licence application based on the current provision of such businesses in a location and is instead given other criteria upon which to judge an application, such as the applicant's ability to prevent the premises being used as a source of crime and disorder.

“Regardless of this decision-making process, there are safeguards built into the licensing regime aimed at protecting children and vulnerable adults which include self-exclusion schemes and making advice available to people who may suffer from a gambling problem.”

A Paddy Power spokesman said: “Paddy Power is a responsible operator that takes proactive measures to offer a safe, responsible and enjoyable leisure experience for its customers and the community.

“Opening a new Paddy Power betting shop is a major local investment averaging around £260,000 per shop and creating on average five new jobs.

“At a time when the UK high street is facing unprecedented challenges due to the economic downturn and the emergence of out-of-town shopping centres, we believe we can make a positive contribution to local communities like Taunton.”

Free advice, support or counselling is available for anyone with a gambling problem through GamCare on 0808-8020133.