Less than 18 months after its current policy on licensing sex establishments came into force, Leeds City Council has drafted a new one, based in part on interviews with “interested parties” and the findings of a survey carried out last month through its Citizens Panel.
Under the new policy, only four clubs would be allowed to get licences – there is currently no cap on the number, though seven were granted licences last year. And no club would be allowed to operate outside the city centre – or in “sensitive areas” or near places with “sensitive uses” within the centre.
It’s not a done deal yet.
To come into effect the draft policy has to be approved by the council’s Licencing Committee when it meets next week (Tuesday 12th March). The plan is then for it to go out to public consultation, before a final draft is prepared and referred to senior councillors on the executive board for final approval.
Although it’s not spelled out, the seven clubs currently operating will presumably have to then re-apply (and compete) for the limited number of licences under the new, stricter terms. If they can find a part of the city centre to operate in that isn’t “sensitive”, that is.
According to the policy, the clubs will “generally” not be appropriate near schools, play areas/parks, youth facilities, residential areas, women’s refuge facilities, family leisure facilities such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls, places of worship, places used for celebration or commemoration, cultural leisure facilities such as libraries, museums, retail shopping areas or historic buildings.
The draft doesn’t appear to give a definition of what constitutes “near”.
Nor does it spell out why it has decided on four clubs as a maximum. It appears to be because 59% of respondents to the Citizens Panel survey (1,092 people) said they felt four or fewer clubs should be allowed in the city centre.
The seven given licences last year were Liberte and Purple Door, both on York Place; Deep Blue on Wellington Street; Red Leopard and Wildcats on The Headrow; Black Diamond on New Briggate and Silks in the Dark Arches.
“Strong public concern” ?
Why a new policy so soon after the current one was adopted?
It’s because of what the council calls the “strong public concern” voiced by objectors when the seven clubs were granted their licences last June.
The most public face among those campaigning against the clubs is Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who launched an online petition calling for the current licences to be revoked, for a cap in the number of clubs, and for a ban on them “in prominent city centre locations” or close to civic and religious buildings.
But “strong public concern”?
Since it was launched in June 2012 the petition has been signed by just 123 people.
“Culturally rich and diverse city”
Some excerpts of the new policy:
“The council believes that … SEVs (sexual entertainment venues) are not in accordance with a culturally rich and diverse city. In particular SEVs tend not to be inclusive facilities, appeal only to a narrow sector of the community and are unlikely to enhance the cultural and child friendly reputation of the city.”
“The council considers that the presence of SEVs in any locality of Leeds will not advance equality of opportunity of women workers or residents.”
“The council has considered each and every ward and has determined all areas outside of the city centre to be unacceptable localities for SEVs to be located due to their proximity to rural, residential or deprived areas.”
“Taking into consideration all the matters mentioned in this section the appropriate number of SEVs in the city centre is a maximum of four providing those premises are not near properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations.”