The number of strip clubs and other sexual entertainment venues allowed in town will continue to be restricted, after some debate.

Watford Borough Council’s existing licensing policy limits the number of sexual entertainment venues in the borough to just one.

The policy specifies that the location of that single premises should be in the Market Street area, between High Street and Exchange Road.

Since 2011 the only sexual entertainment venue in the borough has been a lap dancing club in Market Street.

But on Tuesday (July 7) – with just days before the existing policy was due to expire – members of the council’s licensing committee considered whether the number of venues allowed in the town should be increased.

The council were asked to consider whether The Parade and High Street could be considered as appropriate locations in future – should the existing business seek to move or should additional businesses be allowed.

The options had been suggested in advance of the meeting by the licence holder of the existing venue, as part of the council’s consultation.

But the committee agreed that the existing policy should remain in place for a further three years – and that there should be wider public consultation before the policy was reviewed again.

At the meeting council officers had suggested that while the number of venues should remain as one, the acceptable location area should be expanded to include High Street, The Parade and Market Street, between High Street and Exchange Road.

Diamonds and Strings is the current venue allowed open

In making the recommendation, the officers’ report pointed to the town’s ‘diverse night-time economy’ and the existing business’s contribution to the economy.

It was suggested at the meeting that The Parade had the additional benefits of more CCTV, taxi ranks, lighting, and access.

A ‘sexual entertainment venue’ had previously operated on The Parade until 2011, but after the close the change was made to have just one venue.

But at the meeting councillors refused to back the recommendation that premises on The Parade or High Street could be considered acceptable for sexual entertainment venues.

Cllr Ian Stotesbury acknowledged that better lighting and access to regular patrols could potentially be a reason to want to change the policy.

But he said he did not feel there was a ‘driving need’ to adopt a new policy, other than the request from the business owner.

He said if they were to adopt this change it should be as the result of an explicit request from the police.

He said: “It doesn’t seem there’s a need to make the change, short of a commercial one for a business that we are not too sure we want to necessary enable anyway.”

Labour Cllr Asif Khan said that these types of establishments were “relics of the past” and that he was “slightly surprised” by the officers’ recommendation.

He told the committee he would not be able to support anything that put this establishment in the middle of The Parade, where there were many more young people and children.

He said it would be a “backward retrograde step” in allowing this to happen.

Clr Derek Scudder said he saw no reason to change the existing policy – saying that apart from the venue itself there had been no demand for it.

Although Watford Central Residents’ Association had been asked for their views as part of the consultation – the committee heard that there was no response.

Only the police, the BID and the licence holder of the existing venue had responded. And councillors suggested there should be greater public consultation before changes were made.

The existing policy will now continue until July 2023, with public consultation starting in the Spring of that year.

The policy does not stop applications for sexual entertainment venues being made or approved elsewhere in the borough by the council’s licensing sub-committee.

But applicants would have to argue that they should be considered as an exception to the policy.

Any application made would be subject to full public consultation, as would any associated application for an alcohol licence.