CAMPAIGNERS have lost their battle to prevent a lapdancing club moving into Southsea’s Albert Road.
The national planning inspectorate has given Elegance the green light to set up in the busy street – dismissing fears it could lead to a rise in crime and change the area’s character.
While Portsmouth City Council’s planning team had kicked out the application, Elegance lodged an appeal to the national agency which has overruled the council.
But campaigners say it’s ‘far from a done deal’ – as the council’s licensing team will now have to decide whether to give the venue a licence to hold sexual entertainment.
Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt said: ‘I have already been contacted by business owners and local residents in the area, who have said they are very disappointed with the decision and will be taking the fight to the licensing committee.
Cllr Pitt added: ‘The inspectorate hasn’t specifically said this should go ahead, he is just saying in planning terms, there’s no reason for it not to be there.’
Common sense has prevailed. We have been fighting this because we felt we were in the right.Elegance owner Paul Ojla
The inspectorate in making its decision – which allows Elegance to move from Granada Road into the former Southsea Conservative Club building on Albert Road – said ‘although the presence may deter some people from visiting this part of Albert Road, the first-floor location would have a very limited physical presence on the street.’
It would not operate at the same time as the majority of the daytime businesses and would not be out of character, it added.
Planning officials also dismissed fears regarding links between lapdancing venues and an increase in sexual violence towards women.
Opening hours, noise and disturbance ‘would have limited negative impact on nearby residents.’
Elegance owner Paul Ojla said: ‘Common sense has prevailed. We have been fighting this because we felt we were in the right.
‘We do nothing that’s detrimental to the area, it’s people’s misconceptions about the type of business it is.
‘Fears are unfounded. As we have done in the past, we have proved everyone wrong.’
Mr Ojla said he would now be applying for a sexual entertainment licence that allows his venue to be open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, and through to 2am in the week.
Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of the nearby Leopold Tavern pub, said: ‘The licence has been granted, let them carry on.
‘I am not one to dictate; they have got their licence, fair play to them. It doesn’t bother me one way or another.’