A pay day loan company has been given the go ahead to open up in a busy Birmingham high street despite claims they attract anti-social behaviour
But it took the casting vote of Birmingham’s planning committee chairman Mike Sharpe to give the shop the green light.
Money lender Oakham which advertises short term loans with a variable annual interest rate of 1,421 per cent can now set up shop in a disused former travel agents store on Erdington High Street.
Committee members raised a series of objections – both to pay day loans in general and the specific store scheme – but planning officials had recommended it for approval.
Pay day loan businesses have been accused of exploiting people who already have money problems with easy but expensive loans. The council encourages people to seek out credit unions or other sources of lower cost borrowing.
Cllr Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington) said he was disappointed that police had not raised concerns.
“I’m surprised that the police are happy with this because at various points they have said that they have a problem with pay day loan shops and these types of premises because they generally attract crime and anti-social behaviour,” he said.
He voted against saying: “We have enough of these on Erdington High Street as it is and I don’t want any more.”
Cllr Lucy Seymour-Smith (Lab, Billesley) said: “I’m concerned about the rise in pay day lenders, they attract the most desperately vulnerable in our society who don’t feel they have anywhere else to go. I couldn’t support anything which helped them.”
“Once those sort of shops move in you have a steady decline of a shopping area,” added cllr Lou Robson (Lab, Hall Green North).
And a comment in the planning report sparked a reaction from cllr Karen McCarthy (Lab, Bournbrook and Selly Park) who said: “I don’t think a pay day loan shop enhances the vitality and viability of a shopping area.”
She was told this simply meant in planning terms that an empty shop would be occupied by a business.
The committee was instructed that general objections to pay day loan centres are not grounds for refusal of planning permission.
But the vote was tied at three each bringing in chairman cllr Mike Sharpe (Lab, Pype Hayes) for a casting vote.
He said that he would stop all high interest loans if he could, but added that people do use them.
“Is it either these or the loan sharks. The loan sharks demand a bit more back than these do,” and voted in favour.