No Wildcat action as lap dance venue in Sheffield is blocked

Lap Dancing Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall
Lap Dancing Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall

OBJECTORS to a proposed lap dancing venue in Sheffield city centre were celebrating this week after the scheme was rejected by councillors.

Some protesters staged a demonstration in front of the Town Hall - before permission to turn the Steelhouse bar in West Street, at the back of the City Hall, into a place called Wildcats was refused.

Councillors decided that it was the wrong location for a lap dance club, out of keeping with an area where it was hoped to attract visitors and investors and where there was the potential for disturbing residents with noise and other late night nuisance.

Some critics claimed a sex-orientated venue would put the safety of women at risk, but officers said their recommendation was based on the impact on the area, not on moral grounds.

The application from Leeds-based Harjen Ltd for a venue that stays open until 4am at weekends and 3am during the week prompted a total of 165 objections, including from representation from individuals, Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group, Sheffield Cathedral, Quaker Meeting House and Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

Mr Blomfield raised concerns over noise, anti-social behaviour, safety, the impact on the image of the city and the moral implications.

Peter Sephton, chairman of Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Action Group, said: “This club would reduce the public perception of Sheffield. It would exploit women in a city with over 25,000 female students.”

There was applause from members of the public as the application was rejected by six votes to one.

Coun Jayne Dunn said: “I’m really proud of the council’s vision for a dynamic and safe city centre, especially now when we are encouraging more people to live in it.”

But her Labour colleague Peter Price, who voted in favour, said: “I think this is an over-reaction and people are using their own moral views of the world. I think we’d struggle to win an appeal.”

The officers’ report said a lap dance venue could be acceptable “in principle” because it would have a similar impact to a late night bar or club - and the premises are already used as a bar.

Before the verdict, Ros Wollen, who led the protest outside the Town Hall, said she believed that all such establishments in the city centre, including an existing branch of Spearmint Rhino, should be closed.

She said: “We feel that venues like this objectify women and we don’t want a city centre where that happens and all the behaviour that goes with that is seen as acceptable. “We want a city centre which has good music, good bars, good cafés and restaurants and which does not have somewhere where men can come and see women taking their clothes off.

“In this day and age, of sexual equality, we don’t think it is acceptable and we are glad that the planning officers agree with us.”