People power ‘victory’ as Southsea strip club bid is refused

Paul Ojla at Elegance in Granada Road
Paul Ojla at Elegance in Granada Road
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CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after councillors threw out controversial plans to open a new strip club.

Licensing chiefs at Portsmouth City Council spent more than a week mulling over whether to allow a new lapdancing club to open in Albert Road, Southsea.

The application was made by businessman Paul Ojla, who owns city strip joints Wiggle and Elegance. He hoped to move Elegance from its site in Granada Road, Southsea, to the former Conservative club in Albert Road.

It was a bid which sparked uproar from residents and businesses in the city centre street, with more than 500 people backing a petition against the plan.

A decision was finally made yesterday, with a panel of councillors kicking out the proposal by a majority vote of two-to-one.

The news was greeted by jubilant campaigners, who said it was a shining example of people power winning the day.

Lib Dem campaigner Richard Adair was among those fighting the application by businessman Mr Ojla.

He said: ‘This is a real victory for the people. Common sense has finally prevailed.

‘I was campaigning across St Jude Ward and spoke to hundreds of people – not a single person wanted this here.

‘We stood shoulder to shoulder with residents and businesses and are delighted by the news.’

People objecting to the plan to grant the site a sexual entertainment licence said it would have had a detrimental impact on the area.

Fears were raised over the safety of women in the area late at night and the impact the site could have on crime.

Campaigners also said the venue was inappropriate for the street, saying it was in a residential part of the city, close to two schools.

Andrew Pearce owns Creatiques bridal boutique in Albert Road, with his partner, Rob, and has been among those steadfastly against the plan.

He said: ‘This is brilliant news. It’s one of the best decisions the council has ever made.

‘They did take on board all that was said. Being a shop holder I think it would have been absolutely detrimental to the business of the shop owners and independent traders in Albert Road.’

The decision has stunned Mr Ojla, who feels he has become the victim of a political campaign, spearheaded by the Liberal Democrats.

He said the future of Elegance now hangs in the balance, adding he hoped to re-open the venue but saying that it was in an ‘inappropriate location’.

Mr Ojla said: ‘I am reeling from the decision because I can’t believe that they have refused it. It’s unbelievable.

‘I don’t know what you need to do to succeed in this city.

‘It seems in this town the only way you get any justice is to bypass the council and get government officials involved.’

Speaking of the concerns about his application, Mr Ojla said they were ‘unfounded’ believing his club would have ‘only improved things’ in the area.

He added he will be discussing a potential appeal with his solicitors.