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Stopping Lap Dancing in England and Wales

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An Oxford congregation has recently lost its appeal at Oxford Magistrates to overturn a licence to run a lap dancing club opposite their church. In response to this, CCFON and CLC have put together a range of resources to help those interested in campaigning against these clubs (see below). The issue of lap dancing clubs has now become more urgent due to the number of new clubs opening.

 
Background
 
Since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force there has been a vast increase in the number of lap dancing clubs around the country. In 1997 there were 24 venues; now there are approximately 300 venues. Residents are often dismayed at the proliferation of these clubs due to the effect they have on local areas. The clubs can create a very uncomfortable atmosphere for local women and children who may feel unsafe in the vicinity of such clubs as there will be men leaving after drinking and being sexually stimulated.
 
The Licensing Act 2003 covers pubs and nightclub licensing. It also covers lap dancing premises. When an application to open a lap dancing club is made, the local council must consider whether the club will promote 4 fundamental objectives: the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. It is not possible to argue against such a licence on moral grounds under this Act. Local people have little say in this process, as it is only those who live or work in the area where the lap dancing club is going to be who are allowed to object under this Act.
 
The new law
 
As from 6th April 2010 in England and 8th May 2010 in Wales, the public will be able to object to a lap dancing club on the grounds of it being inappropriate to a certain area - a change which could work in favour of local campaigners. This change is a result of section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 which now covers the regulation of lap dancing and other sexual entertainment venues. The change will allow sexual entertainment licences to be granted for only up to one year. Local authorities can adopt Schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 as amended by Section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 which gives local authorities more powers to control the number and location of lap dancing clubs and similar venues in the area.
 
A further positive change is that local people are allowed to have more say during the decision-making process and objectors are not restricted to those who just live or work near the proposed venue. Similar to the current regime, objectors do have to object within a limited time period of an application for a lap dancing club being made.
 
However, the new regime still does not take into account objections on moral grounds. Instead, a council may decide that the grant or renewal of a licence may be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality, or  the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put; or the layout, character or condition of the premises in respect of which the application is made. The character of a locality is a helpful factor under the new regime, because it may, for example, take into account the proximity of places of worship being near a proposed lap dancing club.
 
Oxford City Council has already adopted the new regime. However, this new regime did not apply to the appeal the Christian Legal Centre recently supported for St Ebbe’s Church Oxford which had to be dealt with under the Licensing Act 2003.
 
There is a duty on a local authority which has not resolved to adopt the new regime within one year of commencement (from 6th of April 2010 for England or 8th of May 2010 for Wales) to consult local people as soon as reasonably practicable about whether it should make such a resolution.
 
However, the greatest problem with the new law is that a council must pass a resolution to adopt the changes. We would therefore urge you to take up this matter with your local council to ask them to adopt the new regime for lap dancing venues.
 
Please write individually or through organisations such as Churches Together. If you have no response in terms of a Committee meeting being arranged to consider the new regime, then we suggest taking the matter up with the Mayor (if you have one) and/or with your local MP.
 
If your local council has not yet adopted the new regime for licensing lap dancing venues, the following are example letters to request them to do so.
 
Please see example letters to your:
 
 

Other Points of Interest

In the meantime, if your local area does receive a lap dancing application under the Licensing Act 2003, we would advise you to  object within the time limit at the initial Council Licensing Committee stage, as the magistrates court on appeal may be reluctant to overturn the Licensing Committee decision.

If you have an existing lap dancing club in your area and you have evidence they have breached the licence conditions then you can ask your local authority for a review of the licence and/or prosecution by  the Licensing Authority.

Once the new regime comes in and is adopted by the local Council, there will be a transitional period when existing lap dancing venues will need to reapply to obtain a sexual entertainment venue licence. Further details can be found in the Home Office guidance.

Further helpful campaign resources

OBJECT Lap dancing Campaign Toolkit

OBJECT publication ‘Stripping the illusion’

CCFON lecture notes on the dangers of lap dancing to women

Further articles and links

CLC Victory: Lap Dancing/Strip Club Licence Refused

CFFON article – Church loses appeal regarding lap dancing licence

Lap dancing crackdown bid is thrown out by MSPs

Oxford City Council Sexual Entertainment Venue Licensing

Sexual Entertainment Venues Home Office Guidance (see pages 32 to 34 for differences  for London)

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