An Edinburgh ‘swingers’ club’ is facing closure after losing a planning appeal, as councillors upheld concerns about loss of industrial space and risk to public safety.
It follows a refusal of retrospective permission for change of use of a unit at Bankhead Industrial Estate in Sighthill to a private adult club.
Cornucopia, which owners claim is the “largest kink club in the Midlothian area,” was previously investigated by the council following reports the former Napier University offices had been subdivided to form “playrooms, kink and BDSM areas” and opened without planning consent.
An application was subsequently lodged but thrown out.
And despite applicants accusing planners of using a “moral standpoint” to block the proposals and arguing operation of swingers’ clubs was “unavoidable” and best managed in “an area that reduces risk to all parties” the decision to refuse was upheld by councillors on Wednesday (June 14).
Without planning permission in place the council could now move to shut down the venue if it does not cease operations.
Cornucopia was approached for comment.
A council report concluded converting the unit to a swingers’ club, which are spaces where couples meet up and engage in sexual activities, would result in an “unacceptable loss of a business and/or industrial floor space” and “would be unacceptable by virtue of its impact on public safety”.
Appeal documents submitted on behalf of owners, who previously ran After 8 Club in the Old Town, said: “Regarding public safety, we do not understand what the planning officer implies by the statement that there is a public safety issue.
“It is our opinion that the Planning Authority was using a moral standpoint in the rejection of this application, this is something that is not allowed under the Town and Country Planning Act.”
The appeal highlighted the fact that the club was for “consensual adults with no sex workers employed”.
It also argued the local authority’s position “could be regarded as sexual discrimination” as the club provides a “safe location for members of LGBTQ groups to have meetings and social events”.
Speaking at the local review body where plans were reconsidered, planning officer Gina Bellhouse said: “Concerns regarding anti-social behaviour and public safety were raised by objectors and are considered to be a material planning consideration which renders the proposal unacceptable.”
She said applicants had disputed that the club would ‘fail to encourage, promote and facilitate business and industry uses’ by claiming Cornucopia had 12 part-time employees and 22 volunteers.
Councillor Hal Osler said: “I do have sympathy for the applicant, I can fully understand people want to run a business and so on.”
However, she added: “I would be struggling to overturn the officers’ recommendation because I think it’s quite clear.”
Councillor Neil Gardiner said: “It’s very important that we do protect these spaces for industry and business use and this clearly isn’t a business use as such.”
The planning refusal was unanimously upheld by the committee.