It’s been operating as a nightclub or music venue for 20 years – but it seems The Haunt has never had the right planning permission.
The discrepancy appears to have been uncovered when the neighbouring Grosvenor Casino asked permission last December to change its use from nightclub to casino.
That application is still under consideration – but the Pool Valley venue’s owners Falconland have subsequently been submitted, one to allow it to be open until 4am, and the other for it to be officially used as a nightclub.
Both the Falconland applications argue that as it has been used this way for more than 10 years, the permissions should automatically be granted.
In the covering letter, HGH consultant’s planning consultant Bridget Miller said: “The evidence of historic use shows that Unit 4 is not currently operated as a restaurant … and has not been in restaurant use for well over ten years.
“Whilst the name of Unit 4 has changed several times, the venue has consistently been in use as a nightclub for over ten years.
“Accordingly, a Lawful Development Certificate is sought to establish that the lawful use of Unit 4 is a nightclub … as the relevant time limit of 10 years for enforcement action has elapsed.”
The current planning permission dates from when the Savoy Centre, occupied by the ABC Cinema, was converted into several smaller units, now occupied by Grosvenor Casino and Day’s Restaurant.
In the original 1999 planning permission the council authorised the following:
Staggered closing hours at hourly intervals from 11pm until 2am, to protect neighbours.
Any amplified music shall not exceed ambient noise levels noise level within the adjacent streets at any time.
At least one of the units shall only be used as a restaurant of cafe bar and not as a public house or bar. Alcohol should only be supplied to people eating meals.
In its supporting documents, Falconland includes articles about the nightclub from The Argus in 2011 and The Guardian in 2014. It also makes reference to a letter from Sussex Police dated April 2011, describing the venue as a live entertainment club.
A host of flyers promoting events since it opened in 2000 highlight its five names: 2000 to 2005 Rio Rocks; 2005 to 2009 Koo Klub; 2009 Cuckoo Club; 2009 to 2011 Kuku; 2011 to present The Haunt.
However, despite the lack of enforcement action, people living nearby have described the nightclub as a bad neighbour when responding to the application for a casino.
Debbie Gibson-Leigh of East Street said: “The Haunt, Unit four’s current occupier, has not been a good neighbour. Their fire exit door is always being used to dump bottles late at night and customers attending live shows hang around the exit doors in Brills Lane, causing noise at a late hour.”
Michael Gallagher of Old Steine said: “I support the application with safeguards against noise from allowing queuing outside to build up or allowing smoking, both of which have caused problems under the existing use.”
When asked if the club is any worse than others in the city centre, Regency ward Green councillor Alex Phillips said: “We have had particularly negative comments from residents about The Haunt, especially those who live in Clarendon Mansions.”
Falconland’s planning agent HGH was approached for comment.