A CONTROVERSIAL plan to open a bookies in a Bradford neighbourhood has been granted a licence, despite fears it could attract violence and problem gambling.

Paddy Power had applied to open a betting shop at a premises in Duckworth Lane, Girlington - currently a Pizza Hut restaurant - but residents, business owners and ward councillors had strongly objected.

Councillor Arshad Hussain (Lab, Toller) had written to Bradford Council's Licensing Panel pointing out that around 10 years ago a nearby Coral bookmaker was targeted by a violent gang calling themselves the Duckworth Lane Boys, and that he was concerned similar problems could arise again.

At the licensing meeting yesterday, Gerald Gouriet QC, for Paddy Power, said the firm had made enquiries with local police sergeant Graham Dyson and it seemed the gang were now well out of the picture.

He said: "The information we got back from him was that there has been no resurgence of that gang or their activities since 2005. He has no issues with that area."

Mr Gouriet also said that given the lapse of time since the gang were causing problems, "many of them are probably married with children of their own".

Cllr Hussain told the meeting he was concerned that the area had a large number of Eastern Europeans on low incomes who could be tempted by the big winnings on offer at the betting shop.

He said: "A bookies in that area would tempt a lot of them to come there and try to make a bob or two, but what they will actually be doing is they will be under a huge burden of debt."

Another ward councillor, Imran Hussain (Lab, Toller), also gave an impassioned speech, saying he feared the premises could attract young or vulnerable people.

He said: "We have seen this destroy people's lives in that area before and that's why we are both passionately sat here on the day of Eid."

Mr Gouriet said Paddy Power staff were trained to ask for photo ID for anyone who looked under 21, and to spot the signs of potential gambling addiction.

The panel granted the application. Its chairman, Councillor John Ruding, told the ward councillors that if any of their fears were realised they were welcome to call for a review of the licence at any time.