26 June 2017
A Green Party councillor has slammed Norwich City Council’s “obstructive behaviour and avoidance of public scrutiny” after it failed to inform councillors or residents about four applications for strip clubs in the city.
The applications are a result of the council’s licensing policy on sexual entertainment venues (SEVs), which was agreed in 2014 but is only now being implemented following enquiries from Councillor Lesley Grahame last November. (1) All four existing venues have been invited to reapply for a licence under the new regulations.
However, the council’s licensing department has said that the applications have all been received and that the consultation period has already passed, meaning there is no further opportunity for members of the public to comment.
In a question submitted to the cabinet member responsible for licensing, to be answered at a council meeting on Tuesday 27th June, Councillor Grahame asked for the consultation to be rerun with proper public consultation, saying: “The council routinely publishes details of licence applications on its website. Those interested can sign up for alerts. There was no alert for these SEV applications and no details are available online. Neither were members of the licensing committee aware of the applications […] As a councillor for one of the wards affected by this issue, who has asked questions, objected to previous applications and requested on numerous occasions to be kept updated, I find this deliberately obstructive behaviour and avoidance of public scrutiny to be deeply worrying and undemocratic.” (2)
Several residents have also written to the council saying they were unaware of the applications and expressing concern about the city’s relaxed approach to strip clubs. Helen Dawson, who lives near Prince of Wales Road, said: “The presence of lap-dancing clubs sends damaging messages to children and young people. Such clubs affect people on the periphery, not just their customers and staff, and the public need to have a say. I have asked the council to delay the granting of licences until residents have had a chance to make comments.”
She added: “I am disappointed that Prince of Wales Road still presents a mono-culture of bars, clubs and drinking places. This lack of diversity creates an atmosphere that I find unpleasant and intimidating. I feel ashamed and embarrassed to see the comments on TripAdvisor about this area of the city. I want to feel proud of the area I live in.”
The government brought in legislation in 2009 allowing councils to regulate SEVs. The law allows councils to limit the number of venues they consider acceptable for the local area, with some having set a limit of zero. Despite calls from residents and Green councillors for the number in Norwich to be restricted, the city council chose not to set a limit when it drew up its policy in 2014. (3)