James Jamieson’s monthly column: The challenges and frustrations of the lapdancing plans

Councillor James Jamieson
Councillor James Jamieson

The leader of Central Beds Council writes his monthly column for the Times & Citizen and BedfordToday

You want and have a right to expect great services from us.

And you look to us to make sure that local communities are great places to live and work.

Recent events have demonstrated all too well, the limitations councils face in local decision making, but that won’t stop us trying to live up to your expectations.

The strength of public feeling against the proposed lapdancing club in Ampthill was clear from the protest on Monday evening.

I have not heard anyone argue that the club is a good idea, and I have huge sympathy for the protesters.

Unfortunately, under current law that sympathy cannot automatically translate into us prohibiting the club from opening.

Some have said that the council let local people down, suggesting that it was in the gift of the council to refuse a licence and that we should have fought it all the way.

In reality, the framework we work under is very clear about the considerations councils can take into account when looking at licensing applications. Local opposition is not one of them.

It is deeply frustrating that under current legislation, local public opinion is not a major consideration for licensing applications.

I know the local MPs, who I met just last Friday, share my view that local councils should have more autonomy to make decisions locally, and that local public opinion should be allowed to be taken into account.

We will continue to lobby for changes to legislation so as to enable greater weight to be given to local public opinion in both planning and licencing applications.

The council were able to apply very stringent conditions to the applications, and I would like to assure residents that every one of the conditions applied to the licence for the club in Ampthill will be rigorously enforced.