Pole dancing club gets go-ahead

THIRD time has proven to be lucky in a Leamington nightclub’s controversial bid to provide regular adult entertainment.

Warwick District Council’s regulatory committee voted by five to four in favour of granting Shades Gentleman’s Club in High Street, Old Town, a sex establishment licence which will allow lap dancing and pole dancing at the premises from 11pm to 3am from Tuesday to Thursday and until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.

In a public hearing at Leamington town hall on Monday, committee members’ votes were individually recorded.

Those in favour of granting the licence were Conservative councillors Felicity Bunker and Dave Shilton (both Kenilworth Park Hill), George Illingworth (Kenilworth Abbey), Elizabeth Higgins (Warwick West) and committee chairman Sue Gallagher (Leek Wootton).

Those against were councillors Eithne Goode (Lib Dem, Leamington Manor), Barbara Weed (Lab, Leamington Willes), Dave Wreford-Bush (Lib Dem, Leamington Manor) and Bertie MacKay (Ind, Stoneleigh).

Following advice from the council’s legal officer, committee member Cllr Alan Wilkinson (Lab, Leamington Brunswick) withdrew from the meeting as he and fellow Labour councillors had signed a petition against sexual entertainment venues in Warwick district. He has said this campaign will continue.

The committee had heard representations from several objectors who had raised concerns about the safety of residents including female students, its proximity to the Hindu Temple in High Street and the detrimental effect the club could have on the regeneration of the area in light of the recent success of the Portas Pilots bid and new student accommodation being developed near the club.

The Rev Christopher Wilson, of All Saints’ church and a spokesman for the Say No to Strip Clubs in Warwick District Campaign, said: “When talking about perceptions and fears the phrase which comes to mind is ‘playing with fire’.

“There is a risk and even if that risk is managed inside the premises, it might not be managed outside of it.

“We need to take perceptions and fears very seriously because they are all about the quality of people’s lives and quality of life is the good for which all of us should be striving.”

Ian Besant, the solicitor representing applicants and owners Robert and Lisa Ransford, argued that the business had been run as a strip club for four years before new legislation came in and there had been no complaints or issues with the club. He said: “Refusing this application because you think it might cause offence to a certain section of society is not a reason.

“It might be easy to go with your gut feeling and refuse it because the press are here and there are people in the public gallery but you have to look at the facts.

“There is no evidence this will affect local businesses.

“There is no evidence of harassment or any indecent proposals. Do you think Warwickshire Police would not be here if there was? A district councillor recently commented that Old Town was becoming a ‘sleaze town’ and this was published on the front page of the Leamington Courier - that is far more damaging than this sort of application.

“What I say is that we have heard absolutely no evidence that this club will cause a problem or has caused a problem.”

Putting forward the proposal to grant the application, Cllr Illingworth said there was no solid evidence the club would affect the area in the way objectors had suggested and said their concerns were based on “conjecture”.

He added: “We’ve had no evidence it will have an adverse effect on regeneration, we’ve had no evidence of complaints over the period of time they’ve been operating and we’ve had no evidence from any of the authorities that this is an unsuitable organisation.

“We’ve taken into account the proximity of places of worship and the closest one is about 100 yards away.

“The one thing we seem to disagree on is planning considerations but we’ve taken them into account.”

This was the third time Shades had applied for a licence, having had two previous applications rejected in June 2011 and March this year.

Objectors questioned the legality of the club making this number of applications within this time but were advised that this was allowed as the second submission had been made by Mrs Ransford while the first and third had been made by Shades Snooker Club Ltd and that a 12-month period had lapsed between these applications.

At its busiest Shades has between 120 and 140 customers and up to 40 on week nights.

Amara VIP nightclub in Court Street was also granted a sex establishment licence earlier this year causing residents to raise concerns that Old Town would become like a ‘red light district’ if Shades’ application was successful.

A condition of the licence will be for the current lettering on the club’s sign, which shows a woman posing where the A should be, to be changed to a regular font.