Majority oppose Hackney Council’s ‘nil’ policy on sex establishments

Protest against 'nil' policy Photo: Mike Northcott

A ‘nil’ policy on Hackney sex establishments is still being proposed despite a majority of respondents in a council survey saying they are against the move.

Hackney Council polled more than 2,700 people in an online survey from September to December last year and of those questioned, 67 per cent said they were against a ‘nil’ policy for entertainment venues, 68 per cent for sex cinemas and 78 per cent for sex shops.

But the council is still putting forward a ‘nil’ policy in a draft proposal that is expected to be approved by the licensing committee tomorrow night before being put to a full council meeting on January 26.

A spokesman for Hackney Council said while the draft proposes “closing the door on new venues, there is a degree of flexibility when it comes to established venues.”

There are five sex venues trading in the ward of Haggerston, all situated in the Shoreditch area, and the council has said that an exception may be made for these venues if  “the premises is a well-run, long-standing sex establishment which has not generated significant levels of concern among the community or statutory authorities.”

Comments opposing the ‘nil’ policy came from a wide cross-section of the community. As well as businesspeople from the sex establishments, local restaurant owners and mini-cab drivers told how their business would be affected.

Writing on the comment section of the survey, P Turp – the Rev. Paul Turp of St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch – said he opposed the policy and was more concerned with a greater police presence and tighter regulations.

Another respondent, C Payne from actors’ union Equity, said: “Hackney has traditionally been home to pubs offering striptease which could be forced to close. Equity highly values these members who work as dancers [and] loss of income [is] unwelcome.”

Those in favour of the ‘nil’ policy, pointed out that they had been made to feel uncomfortable when walking in the vicinity of sex establishments in Hackney, and highlighted the issue of gender equality.

K Smurthwaite said: “[I] have been harassed in the past when walking past a venue… [I] know women who have worked in establishments [and] ‘no touching’ rules [are] not adhered to. [There is] routine sexual harassment. Such places are directly linked to rape, sexual assault and sex discrimination.”

J Todd, a mother of three boys, said: “ [I] want children to grow up respecting women and girls – establishments and their advertising undermine this.”

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