Public given new powers over lap-dancing venues

Local people will be given new powers to appeal against lap-dancing clubs in their area, the Home Office has announced.

Currently residents can object for licensing reasons only, such as crime and disorder, nuisance, public safety and protecting children.

But from April people in England and Wales will be able to oppose an application for a club on the basis that it would be inappropriate for the local area.

Local Councils will be able to set tighter restrictions for granting licences and ban clubs from opening near schools or in quiet neighbourhoods.

They will also be able to set a limit on the number of clubs they believe is suitable for a particular area.

Current laws put lap-dancing clubs in the same category as cafes and bars, but new measures in the Policing and Crime Act 2009 will mean such venues need to apply for a sex establishment licence to operate.

Existing venues will be given twelve months to apply for such a licence or face closure.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “Many people have told us they don’t want a lap-dancing club in their neighbourhood and feel that the existing legislation does not adequately take account of their concerns.

“From April these important reforms will give local authorities the powers they need to respond to the concerns of local people regarding the number and location of lap-dancing clubs in their area.”

The clampdown comes after the number of lap-dancing clubs surged since the Licensing Act 2003 was put into force in 2005. A report by campaign group Object estimated that 300 clubs had opened.

Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman said: “If people don’t want to have a sleazy lap-dancing club in their neighbourhood, they shouldn’t be forced to have one, which is why we’re changing the law so local people can object and say ‘we don’t want this’ in our area because it’s a sex establishment”.

The move has been welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Chris White, LGA culture chairman, said: “Parents’ concerns about what their children might see during their walk home from school and neighbours’ feelings about the reputation of their local area are very valid worries which councils wanted to be able to respond to.

“The existence of a large number of lap-dancing clubs in a small area does have consequences for people who live and work there.”

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