A COURT hearing into plans for a lap dancing club in sight of Durham Cathedral has heard that about 30 women have applied to become dancers.

The women put their names forward to dance at The Loft, on Durham's North Road, despite the club having not yet opened and no adverts having been issued.

Residents are challenging club owner Vimac Leisure's plans, saying the central location is not appropriate for lap dancing and it could put children at risk.

Visitors arriving in Durham by train or bus walk past The Loft, currently a nightclub, to reach the city's historic centre, and it is yards from a bus station.

In August, Durham City Council's licensing committee frustrated both residents and Vimac by granting permission for lap dancing at The Loft, but with conditions.

Residents Kirsty Thomas and Desmond and Anne Evans have appealed, calling for the decision to be reversed.

Meanhile, Vimac want their licence extended from three days a week to seven, and a ban on advertising lifted.

A hearing into both appeals, expected to last three days, began at Durham Magistrates' Court today.

Jason Greenwood, Vimac's managing director, told the court: "We looked at Durham and felt there was a gap in the market.

"Since this has come to light, we've got 28 to 30 girls who have rang up and want to work with us.

"We haven't gone through the applications but if we're successful that will be our next move forward."

Before the hearing began, about 80 residents attended a silent witness in protest.

Peter Mitchell, deputy leader of the Labour group on Durham City Council and protest organiser, said: "We think that was very encouraging.

"It feels a bit like David and Goliath, but I think we have a very strong case. The location is on a main high street."

David Freeman, a Lib Dem councillor, said: "The lap dancing club could have been refused on grounds of public safety. This is not what Durham wants."

The hearing will continue tomorrow, with Roberta Blackman-Woods, the MP for Durham City, due to be called as a witness.

Magistrates are expected to reach decisions on the appeals by Vimac and residents on Monday.