Lap dancing not appealing

Hurrah! News reaches me that the applicants for the lap-dancing club have not appealed the decision of Haringey Licensing committee which refused their application after a long and sustained campaign by LapOff supported by myself and LibDem Cllr Dave Winskill.

They had three weeks after the refusal to lodge an appeal, but time ran out last Thursday.

Dave has been ferocious in his support for local people in this campaign where it was clearly location that was the issue. It was up close to a primary school and a girls secondary school, vulnerable people and generally just a busy local shopping parade in the middle of a residential area with lots of families. Just wrong place.

The law of the land is changing to recognise that lap-dancing clubs should no longer simply have the same license as an ordinary clubs or pubs – but which will have to apply for licenses as ‘sex-encounter’ establishments in the future where location will be a prime consideration.

Over my years in Haringey I have campaigned and fought alongside local people against all sorts of things and for all sorts of things – but I just want to pay tribute to those involved in the LapOff campaign – who were committed, tireless and did the work and the research that gave those members sitting on Haringey Licensing more than enough reasons to refuse the permission. That is the hard graft that successful campaigns require. Congratulations to LapOff.

Crouch End lap-dancing application rejected

Thank goodness! Councillors turned down the lap-dancing club application in Crouch End. It’s been a very long and hard fought campaign – so congratulations to Alison Lillystone and all of the local people who worked so hard to present such a brilliant case. My LibDem colleague Cllr Dave Winskill has been working with the campaign group every step of the way – and I have done whatever whenever I could to help.

The report says the applicants may go to the courts and appeal the decision – but I hope they don’t. The new laws coming into effect soon change the status of the license that lap-dancing clubs need. Currently they only need the same license as a club or pub – but under the new laws they are classified as ‘sex-encounter establishments’ and will need a different license – one in which the location plays an even stronger determinant than currently.

So – as they have lost at this point, the chances of them getting a license under the new laws are even less. And they may be considering trying to get in before the law change – but in the Commons I pushed the Minister to state quite clearly that even if they were to succeed and get a license now – they would still have to apply for a new license as soon as the laws come in.

In the end – this is about location. That has always been the point and the reason for upset for local people. This was just the wrong place.

Lap Off!

So – finally – the licensing meeting to decide the fate of the lap-dancing club application at the Music Palace in Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, happened last Thursday evening.

The gallery was packed, literally packed, with those who had come to support those objectors who were presenting their case to the licensing committee to try and get this application refused.

The Chair started by asking the applicant’s representative to distinguish between lap and table dancing – which in the end it transpired was not hugely different – other than lap dancing was direct to the client’s lap (sort of obvious) and table dancing was at a table.

And then to the presentations by objectors. First up Cllr Dave Winskill (LibDem) who gave the background to the campaign, described the location (and in the end it is the location that makes this application ungrantable – if that’s a word) and put the application in context of the high level strategies that are meant to guide councillors and officers in how to achieve the sort of borough we want for ourselves and our children.

Local parent Lindsay Wright, who lives a stones throw from the proposed site (and who is two weeks short of giving birth to a baby) gave the most brilliant rational for refusal around Haringey’s own licensing policy – and showed that the application would run a coach and horses through it. When the Council’s own licensing policy says that there is a duty to promote safety and wellbeing etc……… She also, despite the difficulty, described explicitly what lap-dancing was (unlike the applicant’s answer above) with precise detail about proximity and touching – too explicit for me to put on blog.

Four further objectors the addressed the key licensing objectives: avoidance of public nuisance, protection of children, prevention of crime and disorder – and told us about the effects that the granting of this license would have on their neighbourhood, their schools, their town centre and their children.

Then the Head of Hornsey Girls School gave a fluent and effective argument against granting the application for the well being and safety of the 1400 girls at Hornsey High – just around the corner.

This was not a moral crusade – but an outpouring of the real worries about the damage that the local community would suffer if this lap dancing club were to open its doors at that location. And that was the real point – the scale of opposition was all to do with the location – near six schools, two churches, Action for Kids (vulnerable people with learning difficulties), the YMCA and right, slap, bang in the middle of a normal shopping high street in a highly residential area.

The law itself is changing. Currently, a lap-dancing club only needs the same license as a pub or ordinary club. The new law, which has gone through parliament, and which will soon be enacted – changes that. Lap dancing clubs will be counted as ‘sex encounter establishments’ which is exactly what they are. And that new law has come about because of the particular trouble and disorder etc that occurs around such places.

However, even under the old law, together with Haringey’s strategies and licensing objectives – this application can easily be thrown out. Only four months earlier the same licensing committee refused an application from Bar 22 – a similar establishment – on the grounds of proximity to residential areas.

If the committee refused that application – then how much more reason they have to throw this one out too.

However, after two hours – the hearing was adjourned because there would not have been time for the applicant to present their case properly and take questions etc. So now we have to wait for the whole thing to be reconvened.

It was very disappointing because the presentations were so overwhelmingly forceful – I have no doubt that the committee would have rejected the application – and am not totally happy that the applicant (having heard all the residents’ arguments) will now have a few weeks to prepare before the next session. However – quite frankly – the arguments against were so strong it is hard to envisage what on earth the applicants would be able to say or do to make their case.

Well done to Alison Lillystone, whose Fairfield Road home backs onto the site, and to Lindsay and Carol and Stuart – and all who made such a brilliant case.

To be continued…

Crouch End lap dancing application returns

I had hoped that the applicants for a lap dancing club in the middle of Crouch End would take the hint – that local people didn’t want them there and that they would disappear forever with their tail between their legs.

The message from the campaign was quite clear: lap off! But they haven’t. They’re back!

So – the Lib Dems are pushing for there to be wide, wide consultation on this new application and for the views of residents to be heard loud and clear.

Indeed, the original application was withdrawn in the spring after really fierce local opposition from residents with their ‘Lapoff!’ campaign, helped by local Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Dave Winskill (Crouch End) has requested that Haringey Council organise a public planning forum to give local residents a real chance to raise their concerns about this fresh application.

We don’t know if Haringey will agree to that – but in the meantime we have until the end of June to object. The final planning decision is likely to be taken by 30th July. The Music Palace (which is the location) has to get both planning and licensing to be allowed to run their lap dance club.

Residents can comment on the application by going to the Haringey website and entering reference: HGY/2009/0953, or by contacting me on or 020 8340 5459.

For more about the issues around the site of the application – and why it isn’t suitable – see my earlier YouTube clip:

Lap-dancing update

Grabbed the opportunity of the Policing Bill – which proposes changing the rules around lap-dancing – to extract a promise. The new legislation, when passed, will make lap dancing clubs have to apply for license as a sex encounter establishment. Currently they only need the same license as a pub.

Part of the concern in Crouch End, outside of just the application (now on hold) for such a club at the Music Palace, was that an application would be rushed through and get granted before the new legislation – and then the legislation would allow all existing lap dancing clubs automatic new licenses – called ‘grandfather rights’.

So – up I leapt during the week – and intervened on the Minister to point out how dreadful this would be. And happily, on the floor of the House of Commons, I extracted the promise that last minute applications for lap dancing clubs will not escape new licensing laws.


Lap off!

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

A quick resume of some activities over last few days

Went back to City Hall for a meeting of ex-GLA members of the London Assembly. Very nice to meet up with old faces. Boris wandered over to say hello. He gave a funny speech – which is his talent. Can’t have been that long after his now much publicised hissy fit where he stomped out of a Commons Select Committee ‘cos he didn’t like the questions about why London transport stopped the night we had snow. What a woos!

Off to OxPoly – as was – now Oxford Brookes University – as an alumni to take part in a panel on ‘successful women’. Unwittingly began my political career there – my first taste of politics was marching against Maggie Thatcher and my first campaign was to Save Art (hugely successful obviously – at least for a short while till I left and they got rid of it anyway). This was a blast from the past. The session itself was sold out and very well attended and hugely enjoyable -hopefully for the audience too.

The other alumni all had stellar careers in a variety of settings – and it was brilliantly facilitated by Peninah Thomson – a real high flier! What she did was, rather than have a sterile format with each of four of us giving a speech, to have questions with herself bringing in the audience right from the start. We all had drinks with the audience after – which was great too.

Several people there actually remembered my Save Art campaign – and even stranger, the Social Secretary from my era was there. He got such great bands to come to OxPoly. I saw David Bowie for example the year before he hit the big time – and there were only about 50 people there! Ahead of the curve…

Went to St Mary’s School in Hornsey – who put on one of the best ever ‘exhibitions’ that I have seen. The whole school got involved in creating ‘The London Experience’. From good size replicas of key London sites from Big Ben to the Globe, to the religions of London, to London Zoo and wartime London – completely brilliant. Wish I could show you the scope, scale and sheer brilliance of this mega project – but look at the photos here and here. I bet the information and learning that the children got from all of this will be embedded in their brains forever – far more than just being taught it. Congratulations to all at St Mary’s!

Turing to a less happy subject – two of my constituents have been held for years under control orders. Every time I write to the Home Office I am simply told they are a threat to national security. They have never known what evidence there is. It is kept secret. Their conditions are awful – let out three hours a day with a visit to report at police station in the middle.

But this doesn’t quite add up. If they are a threat of such great order that this has gone on for three years and everything has to be kept secret, then why are they let out at all? And Mr W spent two years in Belmarsh – but then his charges were dropped. He was then free for five months – but then put under control order where he has now been for a few years.

Finally – lap dancing. I went to an ‘evidence’ session hosted by Andy Slaughter and to which all MPs (like me) who have an interest in how to fight off lap dancing applications in unsuitable areas were invited. Also there were expert councillors who have had experience of fighting off such applications – with varying success etc. I will be writing more on this shortly – so watch this space.

Ten most popular blog postings (1st quarter, 2009)

Here’s what you’ve been reading the most on my blog over the last three months:

10. Lap dancing in Crouch End – one of the big local issues coming up for decision

9. Heading up the party’s Technology Board – see number 1.

8. Sharon Shoesmith – see number 2.

7. Reading the Baby P Serious Case Review – see number 2.

6. Why the number of female MPs matters – see why I think so.

5. What should you do with your emails? – a fun way to demonstrate to Jacqui Smith what’s wrong with the government’s latest plans to keep tabs on what we’re all doing.

4. Not so equal pay at Cambridge University – not Cambridge University at its best.

3. Politicians and Twitter: why The Times is wrong – not The Times at its best.

2. Sharon Shoesmith in The Guardian – I’ve found this blog really useful during the Baby P tragedy, as it’s given me the chance to raise issues and expound on my views at the length the issue demands, but which the media rarely gives MPs.

1. Are you a techno wizard? – no surprise that news about the Liberal Democrats online (and other) work should attract the attention of an online audience!