The Conservative group “missed a trick” to provide stricter enforcement of strip clubs and sex shops in Northampton in its licensing policy review, the opposition leader says.
At the Guildhall last night, Northampton Borough Councillors voted to approve the authority’s new licensing policy, which outlines the rules for pubs, clubs, late night venues and taxi operators.
The policy needs to be reviewed every five years under law, and was last reviewed in 2011.
Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle), leader of the opposition group, said the latest re-drawing would have been an ideal time to either restrict sexual entertainment venues to the town centre of Northampton, or even stamp them out completely, like a number of other councils across the UK, including Wellingborough, have already done.
Instead the new policy approved by a majority vote at the Guildhall last night makes no changes to existing legislation, which is to review each application for a strip club or sex shop to be judged on individual merit.
But Councillor Stone said: “There is just one issue that I am concerned about. This review of policy gave us the opportunity to do something about the location of sex entertainment outlets.
“It is my view that these venues should not be located in residential areas or on high streets or local shopping areas.”
Councillor Stone said strip clubs can lead to the increasing “commodification and exploitation” of women and said they also contributed to an increase in human trafficking, domestic slavery and the sexual exploitation of children.
“It is completely wrong, in my view, to normalise the commercial use of women’s bodies and to promote the view that people are commodities to be bought and sold like any other commodity,” she added.
Councillor Stone said there are three sex entertainment outlets on Wellingborough Road, where she said “families do their local shopping, children pass on the way to and from school.”
“I and everyone I have spoken, to would much prefer these venues to be relocated away from our neighbourhood, away from where we live and where we shop,” she added.
“Many local authorities have put restrictions on the location of these venues. We have missed an opportunity to do the same.”
In 2014 a review of Urban Tiger in Abington Square allowed the venue to remain open as its opening times did not overlap with those of a nearby school uniform shop.
When the council reviews a new sex entertainment venue licence its policy dictates it will have regard to where the premises are located and if they are located near to “any locations for children’s activities, such as schools youth clubs or nurseries.”
Chairman of the council’s licensing committee, Councillor Brian Sargent (Con, Upton) spoke in support of the new policy in the council chamber last night.
“This review still means the establishments we have got, have to be run properly.
“If we have police objections to them they will be closed down, simple as that.
“If they comply with the law we will keep them.”