Leeds Council successfully defend refusal to renew SEV on policy grounds

Leeds Council successfully defend refusal to renew SEV on policy groundsR (Bean Leisure Trading A Limited) v Leeds City Council and R (Ruby May (1) Ltd) v Leeds City Council [2014] EWHC 878 (Admin)

Leeds City Council has successfully defended its decision to not renew two SEV licences. 

The two claimants operated lap dancing clubs in the City Centre and were granted annual licences in 2012, along with a number of others.

In 2013, Leeds published a new policy which provided for a maximum of 4 lap dancing clubs in the City Centre, so long as they were not near properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations.

Following the adoption of the new policy, six clubs applied to renew. The Council heard all six applications consecutively, before deciding to grant three (one for a limited duration) and refuse three. Two of the unsuccessful applicants brought claims for judicial review, which were heard by Stuart-Smith J.

In rejecting the claims for judicial review, Stuart-Smith J held that the Council had:

- been entitled to ‘take a fresh look’. Whilst there was no change to the character of each locality, the policy itself was a material, new factor;

- ‘grasped the nettle’ of any differences with its previous decisions;

- given sufficient reasons for its decision not to renew; and

- acted fairly and rationally in the comparative exercise it had undertaken.

The Court also rejected challenges under the Provision of Services Regulations 2009, the Equality Act 2010, and Articles 10 and Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR.

This judgement comes after a similar judgement in the case of Thompson v Oxford City Council [2014] EWCA Civ 94 where the Court held confirmed that licensing authorities are entitled to ‘have a fresh look’ at an application for renewal of an SEV licence, and may refuse to renew even where there is no material change in circumstance. On appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld that approach.

These decisions of the Court of Appeal and Administrative Court are timely reminders that when it comes to the licensing of lap dancing clubs, under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, licensing authorities have been entrusted with very broad powers indeed. Only rarely will the courts intervene.