R (on the application of Valley Wood Resources) v Exeter City Council [2015] Admin Court

Area of law:

19 November 2015

The Defendant, Exeter City Council, in 2013 adopted a nil policy for the number of sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) in its area. The Claimant, Valley Wood Resources Limited, owned and operated an SEV which the Defendant licensed as an exception to its policy in 2014 but refused to renew in 2015. The Claimant unsuccessfully sought an appeal to the magistrates’ court and commenced judicial review proceedings.

The grounds basically were that the Defendant considered the premises an exception to the policy in 2014 and should have done so at renewal in 2015 as there had been no change in circumstances, no objection from the police and the premises had been run well. It was argued that the Defendant’s reasons were inadequate.

Such challenges have not found favour in four recent High Court reviews (one reaching the Court of Appeal). Nor did they here, Mrs Justice Laing refused permission on this and a subsequently added bias/pre-determination ground (finding no evidence to support the latter ground).

Her Ladyship found that the Defendant’s committee were well aware of the previous grant, were specifically directed by their legal advisor to give it due weight, were well aware of their duty and gave adequate reasons for departing from the previous decision; the committee took a wholly different view of the nature of the locality and the appropriateness of an SEV in that locality.