London's top club wages war with Southwark bureaucrats


London’s Ministry of Sound, arguably the most famous nightclub in the world, faces closure if planning permission to build two residential properties nearby receives the green light.

Lohan Presencer, CEO of the Ministry of Sound Group, which includes the eponymous independent record label, argues that the developments are so close to the club that residents would complain about the noise.

This, the club’s lawyers argue, could lead to the club having its licence revoked.

Now the nightclub is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the council and developers, and is determined to stop the construction of the buildings from going ahead.

Speaking on BBC London radio last week, Presencer said: “It’s a lot more than just a club; it’s the most famous nightclub in the world. It’s also the biggest independent record label in the world. We’re a cultural icon.”

One of the schemes awaiting approval is a 41-storey block of flats, which Presencer describes as “ten metres away from our door”.

The builders, Oakmanyne Properties, have said that the club and flats can coexist – a factor refuted by Presencer, who says the council and developers have incorrectly valuated the level of noise produced by revellers arriving, leaving and smoking outside the club – as well as the music itself.

Southwark Council argues that the area needs regeneration as well as affordable homes, and that the developments will bring prosperity to the area.

Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We do understand the perspective from both sides, and appreciate that Ministry of Sound is a valued club, business and employer in the area, but we hope a balance can be struck which allows them to continue alongside the equally important regeneration programme for Newington Causeway.

“We will continue to listen to local people and the parties concerned and ultimately the decision will be made at an independent planning committee,” she added.

Presencer dismisses the claims, arguing that the application for Newington Causeway proposes luxury apartments rather than affordable homes and that the area is a business district so would better suit offices and retail.  

“We will pursue this all the way. This is a fight for survival. The developers said nightclubs come and go, we’re not going anywhere – we’re staying,” he said.

Last week a public panning meeting was held in the council’s Tooley Street offices but abandoned due to an administration error; the two items referring to the developments, including Newington Causeway, were omitted from the agenda.

The items will instead be discussed at the next meeting, due to be held on the 11 October. 

This appears to have prompted the Ministry of Sound to write to the Local Government Ombudsmen asking for an investigation into the council’s handling of the process.

The nightclub employs 200 people, receives about 300,000 visitors each year and has been in London for two decades. A petition set up by the venue has amassed 25,000 signatures and remains available to sign on the club’s website.