Residents have been given greater powers to object to strip clubs and sex shops opening in their neighbourhoods after Lambeth Council changed its licensing policy.
Businesses that wish to open lap dancing and pole dancing clubs, adult cinemas, or sex shops, will be limited to a twelve-month licence to trade as a sex establishment if their application is approved by the Licensing Sub-committee.
The introduction of the stricter guidelines contained in the policy will allow communities to register objections each year when a business applies to renew its existing licence. Previous rules meant anyone who wanted to provide licensed adult entertainment needed to apply for approval once.
The new rules are unlikely to alter the current landscape in Lambeth which, unlike the majority of London Boroughs, has only one business licensed to trade as an adult entertainment establishment. That position probably won’t change as the council has not received a single application this year from any businesses wishing to provide adult entertainment services within the borough. The new rules were approved by Lambeth Council on Monday (November 7) and will come into effect from Monday, December 19.
Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Cllr Rachel Heywood, said: “I know residents were frustrated by previous arrangements in terms of the lack of powers available to prevent sex establishments from opening.
This new policy recognises residents’ genuine concerns about such premises and provides them with a much greater say on the issue. The policy also enables the council to regulate any such premises far more robustly. I strongly feel that this approach is the right one to adopt for Lambeth as a ‘nil policy’ could potentially force this activity into illegal activities.”
The council has developed the new policy under powers made available to local authorities by the Policing and Crime Act 2009. The act introduced an amendment to the Local Government Act 1982, which created the new licensing category of ‘sexual entertainment venue’. Sex establishments in London are currently regulated under the 1982 Act, which now covers sex shops, sex cinemas, and sex encounter establishments. Prior to these changes strip clubs were not included within the same category as sex shops and sex cinemas.
This sparked controversy in other London Boroughs as licensing policy for lap dance clubs was the same as for coffee shops, pubs, and clubs.
Residents could only object to the establishment of a lap dancing club in their area on the basis that it would infringe one of the four licensing objectives set out in the Licensing Act 2003. These are the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm. Now residents can oppose an application for a lap dancing club or other sexual entertainment venue on the basis that it would be inappropriate given the character of the neighbourhood.