LOCALS fear a gang of yobs which terrorised a now-closed bookies could return if a new betting shop opens nearby.

Bookmakers' chain Paddy Power wants to take over the Pizza Hut restaurant in Duckworth Lane, Girlington, Bradford, and its application for a betting premises licence will be considered by the Council's Licensing Panel next week.

But locals are calling for it to be refused, fearing the return of a violent gang which targeted a nearby bookies nearly a decade ago.

In 2005, a Coral bookmakers in Duckworth Lane had to bring in security guards to halt the gang's reign of terror.

The yobs, aged 18 to 22, who called themselves the Duckworth Lane Boys, had been smashing windows, setting fire to race sheets, threatening customers and destroying seating.

At the time, Coral bosses said they had taken the "unprecedented step" of employing security guards to protect its staff and customers.

Since then the premises has closed and ward councillor Arshad Hussain (Lab, Toller) said things had calmed down.

But he said if a new betting shop were to open up in the same street, he feared it would act "like a magnet" for violence.

He said: "There was constant trouble in Duckworth Lane. The residents don't want any repeat of the violence and trouble, with gangs of youngsters hanging around in Duckworth Lane.

"There's another bookmaker on Lilycroft Road less than half a mile away. There's absolutely no need for another one here."

His colleague, Bradford Council deputy leader Councillor Imran Hussain (Lab, Toller), agreed.

He said: "It's not the right area for a betting shop. I think it will increase anti-social behaviour and lead to an increase in crime.

"There was previously a betting shop that had a lot of problems and local businesses are very concerned about it."

Both councillors have sent in official objections, while residents have gathered a 30-strong petition ahead of the meeting.

A spokesman for Paddy Power 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 we believe we can make a positive contribution to local communities like Bradford.”

The application will be discussed by the Bradford District Licensing Panel when it meets at 2pm on Monday at City Hall.