High Court refuses to review Magistrates’ decision to refuse a lapdance licence

August 2008

Live industry

A bid to open Durham’s first lap-dancing bar has failed after the High Court refused to overturn the decision of a Magistrates Court which itself overturned a decisionn allowing a licence for the club by the Local Authority. South Tyneside firm Vimac Leisure went to the High Court to overturn the rejection of its controversial application to start a lap-dancing club in the centre of Durham. The company sought the Judicial Review after magistrates overruled the city council’s approval for the controversial planning application following objections from residents. The decision was welcomed by Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods who has led a campaign to make it easier for local authorities to turn down attempts to open lap-dancing clubs. For licensing purposes, she wants them to be treated as “sexual encounter venues” not just pub and club entertainments – a move backed by Government Minister Gerry Sutcliffe. Dr Blackman-Woods said: “This shows what I have always said – that local councils do have the authority and the duty to turn down applications for these clubs where having one would be inappropriate. “Local people put an awful lot of hard work into showing that having a lap-dancing club on North Road would contravene the Licensing Act and I am pleased that their hard work paid off at the Magistrates’ Court, and now at the High Court too.” Teacher Kirsty Thomas joined Durham residents Desmond and Ann Evans last year to persuade magistrates that a lap-dancing club was inappropriate in the city. She said: “ Durham was the first case where residents successfully opposed a licence, yet the 2003 Licensing Act was supposed to consider the wishes of the public. “It was obvious that large numbers of people in Durham City and surrounding villages did not want that sort of establishment.” Magistrates found that the city council were wrong in granting the application for The Loft in the first place on all four of the relevant licensing objectives. The High Court has backed that decision and found that there was no need for a review into the matter. In his decision Sir George Newman wrote: “It is absurd to suggest that a table-dancing club with booth dancing will not impact upon a neighbourhood”.


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