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Councillor caught up in licence process fears ‘smear campaign’
THE businessman behind plans for a lap dancing club in Worcester has hit out at one of the scheme’s big critics who herself fears she is becoming the victim of a “smear campaign”.
Ash Patel, who is still planning to open a lap and pole dancing club based somewhere in Worc-ester, withdrew the application for the club, called Black Cherry, in the Butts after an outcry from some members of the public. However, Worcester City Council has confirmed that the club attracted just 13 formal objections.
One of the critics was Labour councillor Lynn Denham, now facing an internal misconduct probe after sending a controversial letter to residents in the city centre using an official Worcester City Council letterhead. In the letter, sent to residents, she said: “I don’t think Worcester needs a sexual entertainment ve-nue such as this and shall be asking for refusal of the licensing ap-plication.”
Mr Patel later withdrew the ap-plication in response to the sensitivities of critics, some of whom were concerned about the venue’s closeness to the Hive, Worc-ester’s £60 million library, which already has an alcohol licence itself.
A spokesman for Mr Patel said: “He is not at all happy that he has done what he thought to be the decent thing by withdrawing the application, in deference to and out of respect for, the feelings of the people of Worcester who made representations on the basis that he feels that he and the people of Worcester were misled by the Labour Party lead campaign against his venture.
“How many objections were at the behest of Lynn Denham and her lobbying of people on Worcester City Council-headed paper, we don't know.
“If Mr Patel had known that only about 0.015 per cent of the population of Worcester had actually bothered to make written representations and of those, only about half were genuinely self-generated representations, he would quite possibly not have been so sensitive to the supposed sensibilities and concerns of people.
“It now appears that people were quite possibly misled into thinking it was official Worcester City Council policy to object to the granting of the licence.”
Worcester City Council dec-lined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Coun Denham said: “If Mr Patel made his own decision about the licensing application, presumably taking account of the submissions made during the consultation process, ahead of the licensing committee meeting hearing, and if he had concerns about the process he should have got in touch with Worcester City Coun-cil rather than the Worcester News. I hope the contact made with the Worcester News isn’t part of an ongoing smear campaign against my trying to be a conscientious ward councillor.”
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