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A DISTRICT council’s ban on gaming machines where food is sold to the public is to be challenged in the High Court by the operator of a Worcestershire motorway services area.

The Kenning Motor Group, which owns the M5 Strensham service area, has been given leave to appeal against a Wychavon District Council resolution not to renew gaming machine permits in outlets where children are likely to have access to them.

The ban, which also affects fast food restaurants, fish and chip shops and other food operations, but excludes pubs, clubs or private canteens, is due to come into effect in September.

Wychavon is one of around 15 district authorities to have implemented a ban on fruit machines in response to a document put out by the Association of District Councils (ADC) last July.

Many more authorities have passed resolutions restricting the number of machines in food outlets, while others are still considering what their policy will be.

The ADC document urges district councils to implement a ban on the machines in the interests of reducing gambling among young people. It has based its recommendation on a section of the 1968 Gaming Act which empowers local authorities to refuse licenses if they see fit.

The Kenning Motor Group’s challenge will not be the first time a fruit machine ban has been challenged in court. A Swansea fish and chip shop challenged its local council’s decision to refuse renewal of licenses, but the court decided that the council had been acting within its legal powers.

Gaming machines have operated at the Strensham site for around 20 years and bring in a significant profit, according to general manager Nick Turner. If nothing else, the company will win a reprieve on the ban until its case is decided – that could be several years away.

Kenning said the council had acted unfairly in not giving it a chance to make representations before the policy decision was taken. It added that it would be prepared to relocate the gaming machines if necessary.

Kenning’s Strensham service station has been for sale for the past three months,and Pavilion Services is rumoured to be interested in buying it. “If a sale is agreed the new owner would simply take over the court case,” said Mr Turner.

Meanwhile, Wychavon’s health and housing committee meets this week to decide its next move.

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