BLUF Local News: London

Step up to save London's leather bar

The Backstreet, London's only strict leather bar, is under threat from development plans.

Before you panic, it's not going to suddenly vanish, and this isn't the first time there have been plans put forward to redevelop the site - something that, obviously, is not going to include a new space in the application labelled 'gay leather bar.' The last time a serious proposal was put forward was in 2007, and it went nowhere.

That doesn't mean, however, that we should be complacent. One of the things that stopped the previous proposal was people being motivated, and objecting to the planning application - and that's what this article is all about. If you're in London, or you've visited, and you value our leather bar, please take a few minutes to read on, and to find out how you can object to the planning proposal.

What's the plan?

The proposal is to demolish the building that houses Backstreet - which has been there for years, and was in the early part of the last century a banqueting hall and ball room called La Boheme. The Backstreet has been in the building since 1985, while the section at the front was a nightclub for many years, called Benjys, Benjys 2000, Purple E3 and various other names, before being closed down.

Galliard Homes, via one of their subsidiaries Bestzone, want to build on the site, with a tower block reaching a maximum height of fifteen stories; the tallest buildings nearby, the council flats behind the club, are only 9 stories, and the bulk of the building in the Mile End area is only two or three.

The local authority responsible for the planning application is Tower Hamlets, one of the London boroughs. You can submit comments on an application to them, but it is important to remember that in law, only certain types of objection are relevant, such as local planning policies, the design, the potential noise, the effect on the townscape, loss of light.

Some matters, unfortunately, do not count as a valid objection - "London would lose a valuable gay bar" is a good point, but it's not in and of itself a reason for a planning application to be denied.

How you can help

We'd urge people to complain about the planning application. Before you do so, please take a look at these useful resources:

This website shows some of the impressions of what the building would look like. As you can see, it dwarfs most others in the area. The site also includes information about some of the guidelines for building height.

This link is a PDF that explains how to comment on an application in Tower Hamlets

The full planning application can be viewed by visiting and entering the reference PA/16/00943 in the search box.

Please read these soon - the deadline for objections to the planning application is the 15th of June 2016.

You can comment by email to

Include your name and postcode, and quote the planning application number PA/16/00943, and say that it refers to the plans to redevelop 562 Mile End Road.

Points you may wish to include:

  • The height of the building, which will be out of scale with others in the area
  • The lack of parking provision in the plans, which may cause issues for local residents
  • The historic nature of the old building
  • The proposed mix of retail and residential may not provide for enough affordable housing

It may be worth mentioning the importance of The Backstreet as a venue for the gay community, but remember that is not one of the specific points on which the application will be judged, so you should refer to some of those above.

Please take a few minutes - together we can do our bit to help keep London's leather bar going!

Wednesday 08 June, Nigel, aka SubDirectory (3). Updated 25 Aug, 11:01 by Nigel, aka SubDirectory (3)