Tower Hamlets committee rejects new curbs on sex clubs

New curbs on sex clubs were thrown out in a “landmark decision” by Tower Hamlets Council’s licensing committee last week.

A plan to introduce tougher measures for existing clubs and a ‘nil policy’ for new ones in the borough had been unanimously approved by cabinet members last month.

But the town hall’s licensing committee voted on Tuesday night to reject the move, citing a lack of sufficient information on how the policy would be implemented.

Gareth Hughes, of commercial law firm Jeffrey Green Russell, represents several of the clubs which would be affected by the proposed policy.

He said most councils in England and Wales had adopted the provisions contained in laws passed in 1982 giving extra powers to local authorities to decide on rules for sex clubs.

“This is a landmark decision, in that no local authority that we are aware of in England and Wales has rejected the adoption of the Act once it had been proposed to the relevant committee,” he said.

“I am delighted for the operators who fought a long, hard battle.”

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The policy, were it adopted, would affect 11 clubs in the borough, making them subject to a £9,000 fee when renewing licenses annually.

Tower Hamlets cabinet members had justified their recommendation to introduce a nil policy on new establishments by saying there are enough already, and neighbours had complained about them.

Cllr Peter Golds, who is vice chair of the licensing committee, said members were mindful of the size of fees for clubs when rejecting the policy.

“We suggested the enormous raising of fees could leave us open to legal challenges,” he said.

However, he predicted the policy will be passed by full council later this month - despite the committee’s decision.

“I think it was not so much a desire to reject the policy as to seek clarification,” he added.