A CONTROVERSIAL lap dancing club in north Durham has been granted a sexual entertainment licence.

The decision was made after a six hour meeting at Chester-le-Street Civic Centre today and means Red Velvet in Consett will stay open.

Protesters hoped a change in the law, which meant the venue had to apply for a different licence, would to stop women dancing naked for paying customers.

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But the statutory licensing sub committee of Durham County Council granted the application to 27-year-old businessman Sukhdev Singh Gill.

Afterwards his lawyer, Richard Arnot, of Ward Hadaway, said: "While we understand a lot of people oppose what it is done in the premises, the reality is that a lot of people support it and if they did not it would not survive.

"Very little, if anything, can be said about negative impact this has on the locality."

Red Velvet opened above a fish shop on Front Street five years ago, despite widespread public opposition, after it was granted a licence by Derwentside District Council.

The campaign to stop the club by residents, who objected on moral grounds, was revived after new legislation following a successful campaign by Durham City MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods.

The Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act was adopted by Durham County Council last year.

The authority received nine legitimate objections, including one from Durham Constabulary, to the licence application, and a petition with 443 names in opposition.

After the hearing the town MP Pat Glass said: "It is an absolutely appalling decision and I wonder what it is you have to do get a licence turned down.

"It is a very bad decision for Consett and it reflects very badly on Durham County Council. People will be justifiably angry."

Council Clive Robson, who also opposed the application, said the fight to have it closed would continue.

He said: "This is the wrong result for families, churches and schools in our area.

"We have worked tirelessly to remove this blight from Consett. It was a mistake that it was ever allowed in the first place and we will pursue the fight against this sex establishment because it has no place in our town."