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Council Loses Licensing Case on Serious Procedural Irregularity

May 6, 2014
Licensing

girls signA council’s decision to refuse to renew a lap-dancing club’s sexual entertainment venue (SEV) licence must be quashed because of a “serious procedural irregularity” which led to it being taken by the wrong persons, a High Court judge has ruled.

Bridgerow Ltd were originally granted a licence in respect of the Platinum Lounge in April 2012 by Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council, but when they applied a year later for a renewal it was refused. The company then brought a judicial review challenge, alleging that amongst other things the council committee had failed to follow its own policy and had not given clear reasons for departing from the original decision.

By supplemental grounds Bridgerow also alleged that Chester West and Chester had acted in contravention of its constitution, because the decision should have been taken by a panel of three but was in fact taken by 12 councillors.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith this week upheld the claim in the High Court. He said: “To my mind it is clear beyond argument that the constitution said and meant that Bridgerow’s renewal application should have been decided by a panel of three members drawn from the full committee on a politically proportionate basis. Equally clearly, that is not what happened.” The judge concluded that the decision of 17 September 2013 had to be set aside “because it was taken by a group of people who had no power to take it.” Mr Justice Stuart-Smith rejected the claimant company’s other main ground, namely the alleged failure to give due weight to or give adequate reasons for departing from the original 2012 decision to grant a licence. He said if those deciding the application had been properly constituted, he would have refused to set the decision aside. The lap-dancing club’s application for renewal of its SEV licence will now be heard by a properly constituted panel.

You can read a full transcript of the judgement here