FRUSTRATED residents fear their high street could turn into a gambling haven after it emerged a fourth betting shop could open.

Paddy Power wants to open in the old Jacobs discount shop, in the Ladygate Centre, Wickford, which has been empty for more than a year.

If approved, it would be the fourth betting shop in the street, following in the footsteps of national betting chains Coral, which has two branches in the town – and Ladbrokes.

Residents and councillors fear the town centre is becoming overrun with gambling outlets.

Terrance Allen, 73, from Wickford said: “I’m so annoyed by this.We have already got three betting shops – we don’t want another one in the High Street.

“The high street is just becoming full of betting shops, takeaways, 99p shops and charity shops. We need more variety, otherwise people will just stop coming here.”

It comes just a few months after Bailey’s Racing also expressed interest in opening up a betting shop in Coleby’s Jewellers, in London Road, which closed last July.

Nigel Le Gresley, Ukip councillor for Wickford Castledon, said: “We do not need any more betting shops in Wickford.

“The fact is many businesses cannot afford the rents and rates to open a shop here and this needs to be addressed.

“We certainly can’t sit back and let this community go to rack and ruin.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail and this will be refused.”

However, Paddy Power said by opening the shop it would create five jobs.

A spokesman said: “At a time when the UK high street is facing unprecedented challenges, due to the economic downturn and the emergence of out-oftown shopping centres, we believe we can make a positive contribution to local communities, particularly by bringing empty units back into use, as is the case in Wickford.”

Residents can comment on the planning application by contacting Basildon Council. The deadline for applications is March 25.