Tower Hamlets Council has introduced a public consultation on whether or not residents would like tougher legislation giving local authorities more powers to regulate the licensing of sexual entertainment venues.
Sexual entertainment venues refers to lap- and pole-dancing clubs. There are 11 such venues in the borough.
The Licensing Act of 2003 under which these premises are currently regulated offers limited powers to local councils. For example, the council has no right to restrict the location of the premises, and can not stop a sexual entertainment venue from opening up next to a school.
The council is now deciding on whether or not to adopt the Policing and Crime Act of 2009. Under this act the council can, for example, decide on what location would be most appropriate for granting a license.
The discussion about lap and pole dancing clubs in Tower Hamlets has been on-going since 2011 when the council considered banning the clubs. This was supported by many feminist groups, such as the London-based organisation Object.
However, it caused protests from sex workers’ unions who argued it would leave people unemployed for no justifiable reasons. The Council then decided to withdraw the idea, but are now looking at different ways to reconsider the issue.
When East London Lines asked residents on Whitechapel High Street what they thought about the consultation, few had heard about it, but everyone had opinions — some rather strong.
Local resident Anna Millhouse, 35, said she was not concerned about it, as long as the women working in the industry were protected.
“I see no problem in it, providing it doesn’t then encroach on local people,” Millhouse said. “What goes on behind closed doors, as long as everyone is doing it of their own free will, personally I’ll say, you know, that’s fair enough”
30-year old Mohammed Islam, on the other hand, said he would support more regulation of these venues, and that he considers it to be a problem in Tower Hamlets.
The consultation will be on the Tower Hamlets Council website until the 29th of April.
Audio by: Evy Samuelsson and Julie Thing.