Sex establishment policy for sexual entertainment venues

  1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Reading is the County Town of Berkshire. It is currently the third most diverse and one of the most cosmopolitan and dynamic communities in the South East. It lies at the heart of the Thames Valley, and is widely regarded as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the UK. Over the last 10 years, Reading has also benefited from being one of the fastest growing and sustained economies in the country. Whilst the recent economic downturn had an impact, the effect was to a lesser degree than in some areas of the country. It is still home to 13 of the world’s top 30 global brands, with the likes of Prudential, Microsoft and Oracle all based locally.

1.2 Whilst the borough of Reading covers some 4030 hectares and is also home to around 145,000 residents, the wider urban area has a population of around 275,000 with an even broader retail ‘catchment area’ of over 1.2 This is a significant aspect of the Reading of today: a sub-regional capital attracting large numbers of workers, shoppers and visitors from a wide area, adding to its vitality and success. Over 13% of the population is made up from minority ethnic communities.

1.3 Reading has a University, which during term time, further increase the residential population by around 17,500 and a College of Further Education which increases the population during term time by a further 8,500, many of whom again contribute to Reading’s economy.

1.4 The ongoing regeneration of the town centre and the arrival of The Oracle shopping centre, originally lifted Reading into the top ten retail destinations in the UK, and it has maintained this position until very recently. However, it is currently rated at 16 on most recent research.

1.5 One of the reasons that town centres like Reading are attractive to the public, is that they are areas offering an attractive, safe and vehicle-free environment with a wide variety of retail, food leisure and services on offer. The public are drawn to such areas because they know that they will have a pleasant and satisfying social experience that goes beyond just commercial activity. This is borne out by the quality and quantity of the businesses that pay significant amounts of non-domestic rates and a Business Improvement District levy to maintain and where possible improve that standard.

1.6 The Oracle is a large privately owned shopping complex to the south of the area. Because it is private, the quality of the pedestrian and leisure experience can be said to be the most appealing in the town centre. When it originally opened, there were a number of large nightclub venues. However, recent years has seen a shift in the type of venue available, with a greater influence towards family entertainment, restaurants and specialised markets.

1.7 Whilst Reading is the largest and the County town in Berkshire, there are many other towns of substantial size, including from the east to west, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead, Bracknell, Wokingham and Newbury, many residents of which regularly visit Reading for retail and social activities.

1.8 Reading’s vision for the shaping of its future has been carefully considered by seeking views from its residents, local businesses and all its partners, in order to ensure a thriving and balanced environment with a sustainable economy. Social premises should be varied so as to provide diversity and choice. They should be attractive and accessible to all.

1.9 The intention of the local authority is to create a well-balanced mix of alcohol and entertainment venues, thereby catering for the widest possible cultural and ethnic diversity.

2. THE PRESENT

2.1 The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982 (“the Act”) introduced a licensing scheme to control sex establishments, that is to say, sex shops and sex cinemas.

2.2 Section 27 of the Policing and crime Act 2009 amends Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) 1982. It introduces the new concept of “Sexual Entertainment Venue” and allows the Licensing Authority to licence such venues, where “relevant entertainment” is provided;

(a) before a live audience; and

(b) for the financial gain of the organiser or the entertainer.

2.3 Relevant entertainment means, “any live performance or any live display of nudity”, provided solely or principally for the purpose of stimulating any member of the audience.

2.4 Reading Borough Council has adopted the Act, and at present, there are two sex shops in the borough. One is located on Southampton Street, and one is located on Oxford Road. At present there are no licensed Sexual Entertainment Venues; however there is one premise that operates as a lap dancing club, which is located in the town centre on St Mary Butts. This premise will require a Sex Establishment Licence under the change made to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 in 2010.

2.5 A number of establishments that hold events, which involve full or partial nudity less frequently than once a month, may not require a Sex Establishment licence or may be except from the requirements to obtain a Sex Establishment Applicants are advised to contact the local authority for details.

2.6 The Act imposes a duty on a local authority to refuse a licence by reference to, amongst other things, the criminal convictions of applicants. It also empowers a local authority to refuse to grant or renew a licence by reference to the number of Sex Establishments, which the local authority considers appropriate for the locality of the premises, subject of the application and the character of the locality.

2.7 This document outlines a policy, which will guide the Council when considering applications for licences, bearing in mind the spirit and intent of the Act and case law decided since it was passed. The Council shall not follow this policy inflexibly but shall take all relevant factors into consideration in determining an application. Each case shall be decided on its merits.

3. APPLICANTS

Individuals, limited companies and firms may apply for licences.

4. DURATION OF LICENCES

Licences are generally issued on an annual basis but can be issued for a shorter term if deemed appropriate.

5. CRIME AND DISORDER

Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, local authorities must have regard to the likely effect of the exercise of their functions, and do all that they can to prevent, crime and disorder in their area. This policy will have regard to the likely impact of such licences on related crime and disorder in the borough.

6. HUMAN RIGHTS

The Human Rights Act 1998, incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights, and makes it unlawful for a local authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. The Council will have particular regard to the following relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights: –

(i) Article 6, in relation to the determination of civil rights and obligations, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time, by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law;

(ii) Article 8, in that everyone has the right to respect for his home and private life, including, for example, the right to a “good night sleep”;

(iii) Article 1 of the first protocol, that every person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his or her possessions. It should be noted that the Courts have held that a licence is a person’s possession.

7. DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

7.1 The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, introduced measures to tackle discrimination encountered by disabled people in the areas of employment, access to goods, facilities and services and the management, buying or renting of land or property. For service providers, such as licensees: –

(i) with effect from December 1996, it has been unlawful to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability;

(ii) with effect from October 1999, they have had to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, such as providing extra help to make changes to the way they provide their services;

(iii) with effect from 2004, they have had to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of the premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

7.2 This policy will have regard to the likely impact of licensing of sex establishment on disability discrimination particularly when considering the operation and management of the premises.

8. IMPACT

8.1 In considering applications for the grant of new licences or variation of conditions, the Council will assess the likelihood of a grant causing adverse impacts, particularly on local residents. The Council will take the following general matters into account: –

(i) type of activity;
(ii) duration of proposed licence;
(iii) proposed hours of operation;
(iv) layout and condition of the premises;
(v) the use to which premises in the vicinity are put;
(vi) the character of the locality in which the premises are situated.

8.2 In considering all applications for the grant of new licences or applications for variation of conditions the Council will take into account the potential impacts of the licensed activity on:-

(i) crime and disorder;
(ii) cumulative impact of licensed premises in the area, including hours of operation;
(iii) the character of the locality in which the premises is situated;
(iv) public Safety;
(v) prevention of Public Nuisance.

8.3 Where an application is made to renew a licence for the same activity, hours of operation and conditions as previously licensed the Council shall give due weight to the fact that the licence was granted in the previous year and for a number of years before that as appropriate. However, the Council will take into account: –

(i) levels of recorded crime and disorder in area;
(ii) evidence of past demonstrable adverse impacts from the activity on the safety and amenity of local residents;
(iii) whether appropriate measures have been agreed and put into effect by the applicant to mitigate any adverse impacts.

9. LOCATION

9.1 Licences will only be granted in predominately commercial areas and the Council is mindful of its power to determine that no sex establishment should be located in a particular locality. In accordance with case law, the Council shall decide a locality as a matter of fact to be determined by the particular circumstances of each case and not by drawing boundaries on a map. The table below is not exhaustive and we would consider representations from applicants as to why our view should be changed about a particular locality.

LocalityNumber of sex entertainment venuesReason
Reading town centre (appendix I)TwoVaried night time economy, entertainment area, SEV, would be appropriate in this area.
Caversham (North of the Thames)NoneThe whole area is mainly residential, with limited commercial or retail areas
Portman Road Industrial EstateOneVery limited residential properties mainly small industrial units
Wensley Road,
Southcote Road
NoneThese areas are residential, with limited commercial or retail areas
Whitley Wood residential areasNoneThe whole are is residential, with limited commercial or retail areas
Craddock Road and Acre Road Industrial areasOneVery limited residential properties mainly mixed industrial
South East Reading (eg Orts Road, Kendrick Road and Palmer Park area)NoneThe whole are is residential, with limited commercial or retail areas
Tilehurst area (eg Tilehurst Road, Oxford Road, Norcot Road, School Road)None The whole are is residential, with limited commercial or retail areas

10. FITNESS OF APPLICANT POLICIES

An applicant must be a fit and proper person to hold a licence. In determining suitability for a new licence or a transfer the Council will in most case take into account:-

(i) previous knowledge and experience of the applicant;
(ii) any evidence of the operation of any existing or previous licence held by the applicant, including any licence held in any other borough;
(iii) and any report about the applicant and management of the premises received from statutory objectors.

11. SUITABILITY POLICY

All licensees are required to ensure that the premises: –

(i) comply with all health and safety law;
(ii) are not a source of nuisance to residents in the vicinity.

12. PROPOSED OPERATION AND MANAGEMENT POLICIES

12.1 The Council requires all licensees to ensure that they and their employees comply with all relevant licence conditions and health and safety regulations.

12.2 In terms of management of licensed premises, the Council strongly encourages where possible and appropriate, will require that licensees:

(i) work with statutory agencies such as the Police, and the Council in order to create and maintain a safe environment; both within licensed premises and in the environs around them;
(ii) particularly those whose premises are located in areas with the highest levels of recorded crime, develop crime prevention strategies in consultation with the Police and the council.

12.3 In terms of the management of licensed premises, the Council strongly encourages and where possible and appropriate will require all licensees to develop strategies and procedures to increase access for disabled people to the premises.

12.4 In terms of the employment of staff in licensed premises, the Council requires that all relevant staff be appropriately trained in areas such as health and safety, first aid, and fire precautions.

13. PUBLIC CONSULTATION

The Council will normally consult local residents in relations to applications for grant, renewal or variation of the terms or conditions of a licence. The nature and extent of consultation will depend on the history of a particular premises and the perceived likelihood of problems occurring and objections being received.

14. LEGAL CONSULTATIONS

Applicants are required to give public notice of the application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper circulating in the area where the premises are situated and to display a similar notice on or near the premises for 21 days beginning with the date of the application.

15. CONSULTATION WITH STATUTORY AGENCIES AND OTHER ORGANISATION

In most cases the Council will consult with all relevant services within the Council and the Fire Authority to ensure that all relevant information is available when considering an application.

(Planning see item 1)

16. CONSULTATION WITH WARD COUNCILLORS

Relevant Ward Councillors will be notified in writing of all applications for grant, renewals and transfer of licences and the variation of conditions within their Ward, and also those on or near the Ward boundary.

16.1 In considering any application for the grant, renewal or transfer of a licence the Council is also obliged to have regard to any observations submitted by the Chief Constable of police and any objections received from members of the public in response to public advertisement of the application.

17. OTHER POLICIES

The Council may identify and apply other requirements from time to time, subject to consultation and proper notice.

18. PLANNING

18.1 The Authority recognises that licensing applications should not be seen as a re-run of the planning application process and that there should be a clear separation of the planning and licensing regimes to avoid duplication and inefficiency. However, the Authority will normally expect applicants to demonstrate that, their proposed use of the premises is lawful in planning  terms,  including  complying with any conditions that may be imposed upon a planning consent, prior to applications under this Act being submitted. Nevertheless, the Council recognises that it is legally permissible for applications for licences to be made before any relevant planning permission has been sought or granted by the planning authority.

18.2 As outlined at paragraph 13.67 of the Consolidated Guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 (March 2010 version), there are also circumstances when as a condition of planning permission; a terminal hour has been set for the use of premises for commercial purposes. Where these hours are different to the licensing hours, the applicant MUST observe the earlier closing time. Premises operating in breach of their planning permission would be liable to prosecution under planning law.

18.3 Where a licence application is to be determined by the Licensing Applications Sub Committee, the Sub Committee in such cases will normally impose a condition to the effect that the licence will not become effective, until the relevant planning consent has been obtained.

18.4 Reading Borough Council is preparing its Local Development Framework. To date, it has adopted two documents and is working on a further document. The planning policy framework also currently relies on a number of saved policies from the Reading Borough Local Plan that was adopted in 1998.

18.5 The Local Development Framework consists of a number of documents, which are reviewed and modified to take account of ever changing demands. Currently these are:

(a) Core Strategy (adopted Jan 2008) – sets out the spatial vision and strategic objectives, a spatial strategy and core policies related to the implementation of the strategy. 

(b) Reading Central Area Action Plan (Adopted Jan 2009) – policies and proposals for the central area of Reading.

(c) Sites and Detailed Policies Document – a pre-submission draft was published for consultation during February 2010. It is likely that further consultation will be undertaken early in 2011 and the programme envisages adoption of the document towards the end of 2011/early 2012. This document includes specific site allocations for the Borough outside the Central Area and detailed policies to be used for determining planning applications.

18.6 Until the Sites and Detailed Policies Document is adopted, various policies in the Reading Borough Local Plan have been saved and will remain part of the development plan. (See web link below). These include the following policies that are relevant to licensed premises:

  • RET 3A: District and Major Local Shopping Centres (LP)
  • RET 3B: Other Local Shopping Centres (LP)
  • RET 5: Retail and Catering Users in Residential Areas (LP)
  • RET 7: Petrol Filling Stations and Other Vehicle Related Uses (LP)

18.7 These main Local Development Documents (LDD’s) are used in conjunction with national planning policy statements. Also, at the local level, there are a number of site-specific developments, briefs and supplementary planning and guidance documents, which are relevant to various parts of the borough.

18.8 The LDD’s will seek to strengthen existing district and local centres. Whilst no definitive extensions to these centres have been agreed from a planning perspective, licensed premises in these areas will play an important role as part of this objective and within the role of the 24-hour economy in Planning permission for A3 (or similar) uses are therefore likely to be restricted within these areas rather than within other predominantly residential areas.

18.9 The Reading Central Area Action Plan identifies in more detail issues relating to licensed premises, the 24-hour economy and the general organisation of retailing within the town

18.10 The key issues surrounding the determination of planning permission for A3 type uses are likely to remain as follows:

(a) Impact on residential amenity through noise, odour, disturbance, litter, etc.
(b) Impact on the viability of the Town Centre, defined district and local centres including the need to maintain reasonable levels of retail (A1) uses.
(c) Potential S106 contributions towards CCTV and City Safe
(d) Each planning application will continue to be considered on its own merits.