SWINGING club organisers have vowed to appeal a decision to turn down an application for planning permission.
Sunderland City Council planning committee members rejected a retrospective bid to change the use of the building in Hendon, Sunderland, to a private members club.
Vivente private members club opened five months ago in Hudson Road, prompting protests about potential sordid sex sessions in a site just metres from a primary school and church.
Ward councillor Barbara McClennan labelled the club a “vampire building”, which would kill off plans to boost the evening economy in Sunderland.
But the club’s owners said they would carry on with their business and appeal the decision to deny the change of use.
Katherine Hind said £20,000 has been invested in the club, which she said has already attracted 450 members, including doctors, solicitors and paramedics.
She also plans to hold exercise classes during the day, including pole fitness, salsa and Zumba.
Ms Hind told the hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre: “We are family people with children, and most of our members are family people.
“None of us want to put our children at risk, so that is why we open at 8pm, when the church and school are not open.”
She added: “Nobody knew we were there, until Councillor McClennan found out and told everyone.
“We have been trading for six months without incident.
“Every single week we go and pick up used needles from the back lane, because we have the needle exchange opposite.
“We have the police coming down to arrest drunks. We are embarrassed, and have to apologise to our professional members that it is an upcoming and area and it will be changing.”
Swinging, where couples swap sexual partners, is not illegal, but council bosses said it needed planning permission to change the use of the venue.
Planning officers warned committee members that they had no reason in law to decline the application and could not take a decision on moral grounds.
Coun McClennan said: “I am not here to debate the sordid world of sex with strangers, wife swapping or the real issues faced by transgender individuals seeking somewhere to go and feel safe with other like-minded people.
“I am on something of a crusade to stop Hendon becoming the dumping ground for problems no-one else wants.
“We have just closed Camrex House after years of trying and just one block away this club appears.”
Pastor Anthony Aisien, from the nearby City of God church, said he was “very concerned for children from the church” and that church goers were no longer bringing their children to evening services.
Councillors unanimously voted to turn down the application, saying it conflicted with regenerating Sunderland city centre.
Speaking after the hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre, Ms Hind said: “We intend to appeal. We are not doing anything illegal, so we are allowed to keep on trading.”