'Porn disco' and sex party ban at historic mansion

The High Court imposed a permanent ban yesterday on an entrepreneur's use of a historic London house for activities including a "porn disco", a sex party and pole dancing lessons.

Westminster City Council took legal proceedings against Edward Davenport over a series of high-profile events at 33 Portland Place, the five-storey 110-room former High Commission of Sierra Leone and Gambia.

It told Mr Justice Eady there had been "persistent and flagrant" planning breaches, with the 18th century Robert Adam mansion having been used for a number of years for commercial rather than residential purposes.

Other events included film shoots, a fashion show and art fair, a wedding, a nightclub and a masquerade ball featuring stilt-walkers, fire jugglers and contortionists.

This impacted on neighbouring residential amenity to an "unacceptable degree", said the council, which won a temporary injunction in January.

The judge said the "porn disco" had been advertised on the internet and tickets cost 10.

"The officers who attended the event confirmed the accuracy of the description," he added.

He said the council obtained evidence that the premises were being advertised for pole dancing classes, which were "said to be good for the circulation".

"It emerges that on the day before the injunction was granted, advertisements were still appearing on the web for the pole dancing lessons.

"The cost for a six-week course would be 140 per person (although there was a reduction for group bookings)."

Tango classes were also available on two separate dance floors on Sunday evenings.

In April, the council heard the property had been used to host a commercial sex party which charged 90 upon arrival.

Mr Davenport argued that throughout its history, the house had regularly been used for entertaining and social events – sometimes on a very grand scale.

He said the use of the property, which costs 250,000 a year to run, had not been sufficiently intensive to prejudice its primary use as residential premises.

He told the court: "It is not feasible to suggest that these activities are profitable or of a commercial nature and these activities cause no noise disturbance or have any impact on the neighbourhood."

The judge said he was satisfied the council had established that the requirements of the enforcement notice it served in 2006 had been breached.

There was nothing inherently wrong in Mr Davenport hiring out parts of the building to make money and fund its upkeep, but it represented a change of use and would require planning permission.