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A step by step guide to the licensing process for ‘sexual entertainment venues’ for residents in Westminster

Lap dancing and similar types of premises are regulated by Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, as amended.

The Act to classifies premises providing lap dancing and similar as ‘sexual entertainment venues’ which require licensing under the provisions of LG(MP)A where that legislation has been adopted (although the vast majority would still require a licence under Licensing Act 2003 to sell alcohol).

Below is a handy quick reference guide for residents of Westminster to the rights and responsibilities of residents under this licensing regime.

Please note that this guide is necessarily general in nature, and accurate in law as at March 2018. Please also note that some of the information may be specific to practice/procedure in Westminster and may not be applicable in other licensing authority areas.

The Licensing Advice Project (LAP) can provide case-specific advice, information and representation to residents of Westminster.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries at any stage of the process.

1. I have become aware of a licensing application for a sexual entertainment venue.

  • You have the right to object to the application. It is a good idea to find out more information first. If you have received a letter from the City Council, it should contain brief details of the application. You may also have seen a notice at the premises. Both should inform you of your right to make an objection.
  • If you wish to find out more about an application, the City Council has a fully searchable Public Licensing Register containing details of applications and licences. It can be accessed online.
  • You can sign up for notifications and to track the progress of individual applications. If you are not able to access the internet, you can telephone the Council on 020 7641 6500, or you can contact us and we can do it for you.

There are three types of application which residents can object to: new licences, renewals and variations.

2. I would like to object to the application. What should I do?

  • It is a good idea to look closely at the application form and any associated documents. It can also be useful to look on the Register for previous applications and the current licence (if any).
  • It can be important to view the licence plans submitted with the application. The plans are not available online but an appointment can be made to view the plans at the Council’s offices in Victoria between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
  • There are various requirements which need to be complied with (including a time limit). However, in general there is more scope for residents to bring wider issues into play than there is when making a representation on a Licensing Act 2003 application.
  • There are mandatory and discretionary grounds for refusal. Although the Act does not constrain the content of objections, it makes sense to frame an objection to address the grounds of refusal
  • Grounds on which objection can be made include that the number of existing licences is equal to or exceeds the number which the authority has determined is appropriate for that locality, and that the grant or renewal would be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality; the use to which any premises in the vicinity is put; or to the layout, character or condition of the premises.
  • Case law in the higher courts has confirmed the broad discretion which the Council has when determining these applications.

The Council is required by law to send a summary of your objection to the Applicant or their representative. They cannot reveal your identity without your consent.

Certain parts of the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy for Sexual Entertainment Venues may assist in assuring that your objection is as effective as possible.

3. I have my objection. Where do I send it?

An objection can be made in the following ways:

  • via Public Access on the Council’s website, where you can make comments on an application by following the instructions and prompts
  • Alternatively, via email to licence-reps@westminster.gov.uk
  • Representations can also be made by post but remember that representations must be received within the 28 day period for objections to be received.

Additionally, all comments submitted and not withdrawn, will form part of the Licensing Sub-Committee report which is a public document.

We would advise submitting an objection either via Public Access or email .

4. After making an objection you may be contacted by the Council notifying you of amendments to the application.

  • The Council is required by law to send a summary of your objection to the Applicant or the Applicant’s representatives. Your objection will be anonymous unless you have waived your right.
  • Sometimes the Council may contact you to notify you of amendments to the application or to tell you that the Applicant’s representatives have suggested a meeting in order to discuss your concerns and examine if they might be resolved. If you are not able or willing to meet, it is still a good idea to respond to the invitation saying so.

5. I have received a letter from the Council notifying me that a hearing will be held to determine the application.

  • The Act does not actually contain an express right for objectors to speak at a hearing, but it should in practice be permitted. It may be considered, as it is in Westminster, that hearing all relevant parties is an effective means of assessing the application in the appropriate way.
  • Hearings are usually on a Thursday.
  • You will be asked to confirm whether you wish to attend the hearing.
  • If you want to submit any further evidence in support of your representation, it is good practice do it by the latest on the Wednesday in the week before the hearing to ensure that it will be included in the Report to Sub-Committee (see below).

6. I have told the Council that I want to attend the hearing, and they have sent me a bundle of papers.

  • This will be the Report to Sub-Committee, containing the relevant documents which will be before the Sub-Committee at the hearing.
  • It will also contain the ‘standard conditions’ which the authority has determined will apply to all licences (unless as part of the application the Applicant has applied to amend/delete any).
  • The Sub-Committee may take into account further evidence produced up until the day before the hearing (or on the day of the hearing with the consent of the parties) but in the interests of fairness any further evidence should be submitted as soon as possible, to allow the parties (and the Sub-Committee) sufficient time to consider it prior to the hearing. The Council may not take into account evidence which is received later than midday on the Monday of the week of the hearing.
  • Equally, if your concerns have been addressed and you are happy to withdraw your objection, it is important to tell the Council. Otherwise a hearing may have to go ahead anyway.

7. Do I need to be represented at the hearing?

  • If you decide to attend the hearing, you should be permitted to address the Sub-Committee. In doing so, you can expand on your objection, but should not introduce entirely new matters. You can address what the applicant or other parties have said.
  • The procedure of the hearings broadly follows that for Licensing Act 2003 hearings (see separate Guide).
  • Each party should be permitted an equal amount of time to speak. However, where there are numerous residents who will each be making the same points, it is advisable that one or two people are appointed as spokespersons.

8. What format do hearings take?

  • Hearings are designed to be accessible and fair to residents and those who are not legally qualified, and should take the form of a discussion led by the Sub-Committee. It is not a court of law, although there are obviously procedural requirements.
  • Matters can change quickly during a hearing. If you would like to be represented by us, please contact us to discuss.

9. How will I know what has been decided?

  • The decision of the Sub-Committee is announced following the hearing or sent to the parties within 5 working days.
  • You should subsequently be sent the formal written decision, with reasons.

The application was granted, and I am not happy with the decision. Can I appeal?

  • There is no right of appeal for objectors. The only way of challenging a decision would be by way of judicial review, which can be a costly and lengthy process. It is therefore very important to take legal advice before embarking on this path.
  • Although there is no right for residents to ‘review’ a licence as there is under Licensing Act 2003, SEV licence holders must apply to renew their licences on an annual basis. Residents have the right to object to these applications, and introduce any new evidence. For example, although the authority may have previously determined that the nature of the locality is such that a grant would not be inappropriate, this does not fetter their discretion on subsequent renewal applications, and recent case law has confirmed that this can, in the circumstances of that case, be an appropriate course of action.

10. I would like to keep up to date with what is happening in my area with licence applications.

The Council produces a weekly bulletin called ‘Licensing News’, which details all applications pending in the consultation period i.e. those applications for which representations can still be accepted. You can ask to be put on the mailing list by emailing licensing@westminster.gov.uk

Additionally, Public Access on the Council’s website enables you to receive email alerts on properties or streets you are interested in. You will need to register. There is a useful document on the Council’s website to guide you through the process, or you can email the Council if you are having difficulties. You can also contact us for help if you wish.

Once you have registered, you can also track an application on which you have made a representation, and you will be updated when the status of the application changes.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about these type of premises..

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