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London’s night tsar urges councils to help save LGBT venues from closure

By Ross Semple

Council planners have been urged to help save LGBT+ venues by the London mayor’s night tsar.

Amy Lamé used an event at City Hall for Planning Out, an LGBT+ networking group for urban planners, to set out a five-point charter for new venues and call on the profession to set a legal precedent through planning contract rules to protect venues.

Earlier this month, a report by UCL Urban Laboratory revealed that the number of LGBT+ venues in London has fallen by 58% from 125 to 53 since 2006.

Lamé said she had been shocked by the rate of closures: “I knew it was bad, I didn’t know it was that bad. The reasons why they are closing is not because of Grindr. It’s because of external pressures such as a lack of implementation of safeguarding measures in the existing planning system.”

Other factors identified by researchers included property developments on venue clusters and change of use of properties by landlords.

Lamé told the event: “What can we do about it? Planning policy in the London Plan [the capital’s strategic development plan] has a role already. What we need is a change in the approach.”

She confirmed one venue, Molly Moggs, will re-open after a refit after the developer was lobbied.

Lamé said: “They wanted to close it. That wasn’t the original plan. It’s a really important venue. I recognise there’s a number of things where it can protect LGBTQ venues.”

She set out five points that she believed would give LGBT+ venues separate protected status so that planners could easily ensure they were protected. These include: prominently displaying the rainbow flag, actively promoting itself as an LGBT+ safe space, staff trained to be LGBT+ friendly and the venue must be accountable to the LGBT+ community.

Many of the audience were from local authority planning teams or were planning lawyers. The night tsar issued them a direct challenge to use contract negotiations with developers to give her five points legal status: “If you include a Section 106 agreement, it has the potential to be legally binding. Who would like to set a precedent with me?”

She summarised the new approach: “It basically means don’t fuck with our LGBT spaces.”

Rob Krzyszowsk, co chair of Planning Out, welcomed Lamé’s proposals: “The planning system can definitely change things. what’s really good is that we’ve all seen the evidence in the UCL research and that the starting point.

“It shows what the real reasons for closures are and gets the message out there that things can be done. Amy’s proposals are excellent. Planners can’t do everything and there’s a lot of work to do but it’s a good start.”

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