Here’s my latest column from the Ham & High:
Watch out! A lap-dancing club could be coming to your local high street soon. Would you like one to open up in Highgate Village, Muswell Hill Broadway or Lordship Lane?
Whilst I don’t believe government should be in the business of banning lap-dancing clubs from existing – people should be free to choose – there’s a time and a place, most particularly a place, for such establishments. I don’t believe that they should be sited right next to schools, near to vulnerable young people or in a busy shopping street in the middle of residential area.
Whilst the current furore over an application for a lap-dancing club is in Crouch End Broadway – there is in fact a rush of new applications as people try to get in before the laws are tightened up by the Policing Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
Currently the license needed is the same for lap-dancing as for a pub or club. The new legislation will reclassify lap-dancing as a ‘sex encounter’ establishment which will then require the same license as the rest of the sex trade. This will give local authorities the right to refuse an application on the grounds of location – particularly if the site is near schools etc.
Giving this extra discretion seems very sensible to me – a pub and a lap-dancing club are very different establishments. Indeed, I can’t imagine why it took so long to recognise that difference as lap-dancing (if you will excuse the expression) is very ‘in your face’ sexual – that’s the point of it!
Facing this future where local authorities and local people have more control over where such places can open, those running or wanting to run lap-dancing clubs are trying to get their applications approved before the rules change. In addition, the Lap Dancing Association is lobbying MPs to try and get ‘grandfather rights’ which would mean that clubs with existing licenses will automatically be granted a new type license.
There is another battle shaping up over whether or not the final legislation will include an exemption for venues hosting lap-dancing less than once a month. This would greatly weaken the new rules – which is why I’m opposing this change.
When the final rules become law, they will be ‘optional’ in the sense that councils will be able to decline to use the new powers to judge and reject applications. On this – Haringey Council has said that it will take up the full powers – thank goodness.
So whilst in Parliament I’m fighting to stop the rules being watered down, meanwhile, back on the home front I have joined up with the local campaigners and local Liberal Democrat councillors to fight the Crouch End application.
Lap Off is the name of the campaign. I hope that the licensing panel will turn it down on May 14 – and I hope to be able to speak to support the campaigners on the night. With Rokesley School literally a stone’s throw away, Hornsey Girls School just around the corner, and both Action for Kids (a charity for young people with learning disabilities) and the YMCA with vulnerable residents all within a tiny distance – in my view it would never in a million years qualify for a license under the new legislation. And what woman or girl would honestly feel completely comfortable getting off at the bus stop outside such a club at night when they return home from an evening out?
But even under the existing rules, I believe that the actual detrimental impact on people’s lives as well as the usual noise, litter, etc should be enough to stop the proposal in its tracks.
To sign the petition to the licensing sub-committee go to www.petitiononline.com/lapoff/petition-sign.html.