Thursday, August 07, 2008

White Hart Lap Dancing Application - Licensing Committee

The papers have been published for the Lewisham Council Licensing Committee meeting on Thusday 14 August at 6:30 pm. The meeting will take place in Committee Room 4 of Lewisham Town Hall and will be open to the public.

The meeting will only be considering three applications, the most contentious of which is the application from the White Hart pub at 184 New Cross Road for strip tease and lap dancing. The application from landlord Kenneth Linwood makes it clear exactly what is proposed: 'I wish to provide entertainment, being striptease and lap dancing. I would like to have the dancers during the day and evening. Approximately 8 dancers at any one time' with facilities including 'dance floor, tables, a booth for private dancing and poles for pole dancing' (no mention of what the hotel rooms upstairs will be used for). Proposed opening times are given as 2:00 pm to 2:30 am, seven days a week.

A huge number of objections have been lodged to the application, as well as some statements of support. The landlord has collected eight pages of signatures on a petition in support of his application, and there are seventeen pages of signatures on a petition headed 'No to a Lap Dancing Club in New Cross Gate'. In terms of letters and emails, there is only one in support of the application, and 140 against. Those registering objections include local councillors, Joan Ruddock MP, the Metropolitan Police, local churches (All Saints and St Catherine's), the Queens Road GP Practice (near to the pub), Eaves Housing for Women, the Hair & Beauty Studio and Parkers Estate Agents. I am not normally to be found in such respectable company, but reading through the various letters has strengthened my opposition to this proposal.

A lot of people talk about the negative impact of the proposal on the immediate area. The fact is New Cross feels like a traffic corridor with little public space. Whatever people think about the progress of regeneration in New Cross, the plans for a new library and health centre, plus a pedestrianised area, at least offer the possibility of the 'Kender Triangle' being a public area where local people might feel safe and comfortable. Obviously having a lap dancing club in the middle of it makes a mockery of that vision. Unfortunately these objections might not carry much weight in their own right, as the Licensing Act 2003 allows a narrow range of reasons for license applications to be refused.

I was particularly struck by the views of women who will have no choice but to pass by the White Hart because of its proximity to the only road crossing at this end of New Cross Road and Queens Road - and who fear sexual harrassment from drunk punters standing outside for a smoke or coming out afterwards. One letter states: 'As three young women living locally, I can guarantee that our lives would be affected by such a club being allowed to open. I believe that permitting longer drinking hours in a venue where unfulfilled sexual titillation is at the core, is a recipe for disaster once customers leave the pub'. Another says: 'I already feel that I have to go out of my way to walk on the other side of the road when coming from or going to the bus stop, particularly at night, as I feel unsafe around that stretch of road. The club is likely to make matters much worse, attracting to the corner people who have not only drunk a lot, as now, but who are also excited and eager to exploit women. I assume that any of them who want to smoke will have to congregate outside anyway. If I, or any woman walk round that corner, we would either have to run the gauntlet of the gathering or step out into the very busy road'.

I would recommend that people attend the meeting of the Licensing Committee and be prepared to back up their written objections in person if needed. Further details of the meeting should be available from maria.mead@lewisham.gov.uk

One thing that has surprized me about this whole affair is how easy it can be for contentious applications to get through without anybody knowing about them. Many people only found out about the White Hart application at the last minute - through the South London Press, at this site, Brockley Central and emails from friends. When I first heard out about it I could find no details of the application on the Lewisham Council website, and reading through the officer's report on the application I can see why. It states 'The application was advertised in accordance with the regulations (premises and Loot 9 July 2008)'. Who reads Loot?! What about local papers and what about the Council website?

See also: result of application.

7 comments:

Sue Luxton said...

Licensing applications are publicised a lot less than planning apps. Planning (usually) send letters to neighbouring properties and local amenities societies, whereas for licensing apps, the applicant only has to stick a notice in the window and licensing e-mail cllrs. Not sure whether licensing is actually prevented from doing further consultation, or if they just do the legally-required minimum.

Re lap-dancing clubs, it's worth looking at the campaign that the Fawcett Society, Object and a coalition of groups have calling for a change in law to close the loop-hole that means lap-dancing clubs are not currently classified as a sex encounter establishment.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Sue, I assume that the legal minimum is to put a notice near the premises (in this case in the middle of one of the busiest roads in London) and in a newspaper - the choice of Loot seems mildy eccentric. I'm sure there's no regulation that prevents at the very least making details of applications available online.

Brockley Kate said...

I had to change buses just by this pub late last night, and it occurred to me that I'd be far more reluctant to do so if it was a strip joint. It made me feel extremely vulnerable despite being a busy, well-populated interchange even in the evenings.

Bill Ellson said...

Democratic Deficit
This is outside the Creekside Forum area but we are extremely concerned that the Council may try and sneak through similiar applications in Deptford.

Paragraph 3 of the committee paper for Thursday states:
"The application was advertised in accordance with the regulations (premises notice and Loot 9 July 2008 )"

You can search through the committee papers but you will not find any clue as to which regulations apply. In fact it is The Licensing Act 2003 (Premises licences and club premises certificates) Regulations 2005 that regulate such applications and Regulation 25 states inter alia "...the person making the application shall advertise the application,.. ...in a local newspaper...".

The assertion by council officers that the application was advertised in accordance with the regulations is therefore untrue. There are three applications on Thursday's agenda only one of which was advertised in a local newspaper. The advertisement for Ginos in Catford was also placed in Loot. This suggests that LB Lewisham staff are either ignorant of the Regulations, which is entirely possible, or that they are deliberatly disregarding them.

Obviously if people do not know about an application then they are unlikely to object.

The applicant is required to publicise the application, but there is nothing to stop the council the council carrying out further consultation. The council has a database of postal addresses and mapping software that is used to notify people of planning applications and there is no reason why it should not be used to notify local people of an application of this nature.

There has been a massive loss of pubs in south east London in recent years and if Mr Linwood's application suceeds then the White hart will no longer, in most people's understanding, be a pub.

The sex industry has always been with us and always will be, but in what is meant to be a democratic society people are entitled to know of and be able to comment on such an application.

I have no doubt that some spotty brat from Lewisham Legal will try and tell us that black is white and white is black on Thurday evening. We need as many people attending the committee as possible to make it clear to councillors and officers that we expect them to refuse the application and that we expect officers to apply the regulations properly in the future.

The regulations can be found at:
http://tinyurl.com/6cwqyp

I have some longrunning problem in posting to any blogger site from the office computer. If anybody wants to contact the Forum then they can do so on 020 8692 5666 or creeksidecf AT freeuk.com

CarolineLD said...

Thank you for your excellent coverage of this - as you say, it's been hard to find information anywhere else. I won't be able to attend the meeting, but fingers crossed all the objections will have an effect.

Transpontine said...

@ bill, thanks for the clarification of the law, I don't think many people in Lewisham would define Loot as a local paper, even if technically it is a London paper.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Bill and as Vice chair of the Creekside forum I will be attending this meeting. We are having a lot of developments being ear marked for our area of the world and I am wondering if this kind of under hand dealing by the council is just an effor to circumnavigate our rights to be informed in local papers of any changes of usage, licencing and developments. The loot is not a local paper and so cannot come under the remit of the act. However the Mercury, Southest London Press and the Shopper are local papers and these changes should have been advertised in them. Was it only avertised in The Loot so that protesting would be down to a minimum or as Bill said is it total ignorance of the licencing act. If it is ignorance then it asks the question why are they employed in an area where they have no working knowledge.