Super casino fear for traders

More than 6,000 people in Washwood Heath and Saltley have signed a petition objecting to plans for a super-casino at the proposed Birmingham City FC stadium.

The protest, organised by Saltley Traders Association, urges Birmingham City Council to reject the casino because of the impact on crime and the environment.

Washwood Heath councillor Tariq Khan, who presented the petition at yesterday’s city council meeting, said residents feared their community would be turned into a „mini-Blackpool“ if the football club succeeded in winning permission for the largest casino in the country.

The petition contrasts with claims before Christmas by Labour councillors in Nechells and Washwood Heath most people in the Muslim-dominated area were behind the casino because they recognised the economic regeneration benefits that would flow from approval.

Coun Khan (Lib Dem) denied petitioners were driven by religious sensitivities.

He said: „This is nothing to do with being Muslim. All sorts of people have signed the petition, Muslims, Christians, other faiths, and people with no faith at all. What they are saying is they don’t want a huge casino on their doorstep. We already have Star City up the road, the largest casino in the country at the moment. We don’t want this area to become a mini-Blackpool.“

Coun Khan said people feared parking problems in residential streets, noise, litter and organised crime.

He added: „This is a residential area that, if we are not careful, will end up squeezed between two casinos.

„I have a lot of respect for Birmingham City Football Club and we do not oppose the new stadium, but I have to listen to what people are saying. They do not want a casino.

„The council must listen to and respect the views of the people. You can’t steamroller over the local community.“

The council cabinet will decide next month whether to support the Birmingham City casino scheme, or to back a rival proposal at the National Exhibition Centre.

Council leaders fear Birmingham City’s proposal will become a key issue in the marginal Washwood Heath and Nechells wards at the May local authority elections, where Labour and Liberal Democrats are locked in a struggle for votes.

A Government-appointed panel set up to consider applications for super-casinos across the country has already received more than 20 proposals.

The Casino Advisory Panel has received expressions of interest from 27 authorities, including Birmingham, Soli-hull and Coventry, Ministers have revealed.

Only one application will be approved, as a pilot project, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.