Sex Establishments

Sex Establishments

A licence is required if it is intended to use any premises, vehicle or vessel or stall as a sex establishment. This requirement does not apply where the council has waived the requirement for a licence, nor to the sale, supply or demonstration of articles which are manufactured for use primarily for the purposes of birth control or primarily relate to birth control.

You must apply to the council for a sex establishment licence, or if you want the council to waive the requirement for such a licence.

It is an offence not to comply with the requirement to obtain a licence, the penalty for which on summary conviction is a fine not exceeding £20,000.


Click this link to view the regulations relating to sex establishments.


The three types of sex establishments are defined as a “sex cinema”, “sex shop” or "sexual entertainment venue".

How to apply

Complete an Application for Grant of a Sex Establishment Licence form and return it to the Council with the application fee. The application form can be used for grant, transfer, renewal and variation applications. The application must be copied by the applicant to the Police within 7 days after the date the application was made. You can also download an application for Grant of Waiver for a sex establishment licence.

You must provide the applicants name, address and, where the applicant is an individual, their age, plus the premises address.

Applicants are recommended to read the Sex Establishment Policy before making an application

Notice of Application

Applicants must also give public notice of the application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper. This must be published within 7 days of making the application. If the application relates to a premises then there is an additional requirement for notice of the application to be displayed for 21 days on or near the premises where it can be conveniently read by the public. The notice, the form of which is prescribed by the Council, must contain certain information. You can download a draft notice of application here.

Commenting on application

Members of the public can object to a sex establishment application. The objection must be made in writing and sent to the council within 28 days after the date of the application. The letter must state the reasons for the objection. The council will consider objections made when making a decision.

The council must inform the applicant when objections are received, and provide details of the reasons for objections. However we will not give out the names and addresses of people who object, unless they give their consent.


The following fees apply for sex establishment applications:

  • Grant of a licence £5,000.00

  • Renewal of licence £1,500.00

  • Transfer of licence £2,000

  • Variation of licence £2,000.00

How your application will be processed

Tacit authorisation does not apply to new grant applications for sex establishment licences. This means you must wait for the council to determine your application before you can operate a sex establishment.

If you are applying to renew a sex establishment licence, you can continue to operate past the licence expiry date, provided that you submit your renewal application before the licence expires. The council will notify you of the decision.

A licence cannot be granted to:

  • a person under the age of 18;

  • a person who is for the time being disqualified from holding a licence following revocation of such a licence; or

  • a person who had, within a period of 12 months immediately preceding the date when the application was made, refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises, vehicle, vessel or stall in respect of which the application is made, unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal.

If none of the above applies to the applicant then the application together with any objections will be referred to the relevant committee of the council for a hearing of the application. The council may refuse an application for the grant of a licence on one or more of the following grounds :

  • that the applicant is unsuitable to hold the licence by reason of having been convicted of an offence or for any other reason

  • that if the licence were to be granted, the business to which it relates would be managed by or carried on for the benefit of a person, other than the applicant, who would be refused the grant of such a licence if he made the application himself

  • that the number of sex establishments in the relevant locality at the time the application is made is equal to or exceeds the number which the authority consider is appropriate for that locality;

  • that the grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality or to the use to which any premises in the vicinity of the premises, vehicle or vessel or stall in respect of which the application is made.

When issuing a Sex Establishment Licence the council is permitted to issue it on such terms and conditions and subject to restrictions as specified at the time the licence is issued.

It is an offence to breach the conditions and the penalty for this is a fine not exceeding £20,000.

Please refer to the Sex Establishment Licensing Policy or contact the licensing office for more information.

Right to appeal a decision

If an application is refused following a hearing of the application then the applicant will be informed of the decision, the reasons for it and the right of appeal.

Appeals must be made to the local magistrates court within 21 days, starting from the date the applicant is notified of the council's decision.

Applicants can appeal against the refusal of a new grant, variation and transfer applications, or against the decision to revoke a licence. They can also appeal against conditions or restrictions imposed.

Please note that you cannot appeal against the council's decision if the application was refused on the grounds that:

  • the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the authority consider is appropriate; or

  • the grant of the licence would be inappropriate considering the character of the area, the nature of other premises in the area, or the premises themselves

The magistrates court will determine the appeal application. If you do not agree with the decision made by the magistrates court, you can appeal to the local crown court. The decision made by the crown court will be final.

The council must give effect to a decision made by the magistrates or crown court.

Important Information

It is an offence to employ a person who is disqualified from holding a licence, the penalty for this on summary conviction of a fine not exceeding £20,000. The same penalty applies for an offence of allowing someone under 18 to enter the establishment or be employed at the establishment.

Please contact licensing services if you wish to discuss an application, decision or existing licence.

Consumer complaints

If you have a problem with a sex establishment, we recommend you contact the premises directly to try to resolve the dispute. If this is not successful then licensing services may be able to help or contact Consumer Direct, or the UK European Consumer Centre if you live outside the UK.

You can see any applications that have been made to the Council of the Isles of Scilly for the grant of a sex establishment licence here.