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Petitioning Warwick District Council

Impose a "Nil Cap" on Sexual Entertainment Venues

We, the undersigned, call upon Warwick District Council to impose a “Nil Cap” on the number of Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) within the WDC area, to apply to future SEV applicants.

We support a Nil Cap on SEVs for the following reasons:

1. Community safety, welfare and cohesion

Leamington Spa and Warwick have evolved over centuries to comprise of many mixed use spaces where retail and industrial premises are located alongside residential areas and community amenities. There are very few spaces where an SEV would not have an impact on nearby stakeholders.

WDC recognises in its own SEV policy that SEVs can cause disturbance, anti-social behaviour and a fear of crime. Police in Newquay recently reported that the presence of strip clubs had contributed to rapes and other forms of sexual assaults in the area (The Daily Telegraph, May 23 2012). Objectors to both the recent “Shades” and “Amara” SEV applications in 2012 cited incidents of being intimidated and/or threatened by sex industry patrons. This is especially relevant for the elderly, the disabled and women, the latter of whom may be more likely to be victims of a sexual assault in the vicinity of SEVs than other urban areas (The Lilith Project, 2007).

A nil cap would reassure residents that WDC regards the safety and welfare of community members as an utmost priority.

2. Economic growth and prosperity

Many local businesses are struggling to survive in the midst of a double dip recession. The sex industry unfairly tarnishes broader areas with an image of sleaze, prostitution, crime and degradation. This reputation drives away trade from areas which depend on a welcoming, family friendly image to attract custom. Research from the Local Government Association in 2012 supports this, indicating that 76% of council officers surveyed blamed strip clubs for undermining high street economic growth.

A nil cap would reassure local businesses that WDC is committed to supporting economic growth, particularly in the more deprived areas of the district which require regeneration.

3. Historical and contemporary character

Every year, millions of domestic and international tourists come to visit the West Midlands “Shakespeare” country. Tourists frequently include a day trip to Leamington Spa to enjoy its Regency-era splendour and award winning gardens, and Warwick to visit the castle, tea rooms and race course (amongst other attractions). Period dramas such as the BBC’s “Upstairs Downstairs” have chosen Leamington Spa as a location specifically because of its beautifully preserved Belgravia-style Georgian architecture and Victorian gardens.

The presence of the sex industry lowers the public reputation of the surrounding district. The negative publicity brought upon the area by WDC’s decision to grant an SEV licence to “Amara” and "Shades" has left residents – who pay a substantial financial premium to live in such a desirable area – feeling disenfranchised by WDC’s decision to let the sex industry tarnish the town in which they live.

A nil cap would reverse this trend and act to preserve the historical grandeur and sophistication traditionally associated with the WDC area.

We, the undersigned, further call upon WDC to clarify the SEV policy definition of "close proximity" to residential areas, places of worship and places where children congregate to mean "within 500 metres." 

The term "close proximity" is currently undefined and has led to inconsistent applications of the policy in recent SEV hearings. In the case of Amara the Regulatory Committee accepted an SEV applicant's suggestion that it should be restricted to mean "on the same road," which led to sheltered housing on a neighbouring road (Tower Street) being discounted from the decision making process. On this basis the licence was granted. Yet this was a different interpretation to that applied in two prior "Shades" SEV applications, which took into consideration residential housing and a place of worship on neighbouring roads. On the most recent "Shades" application, WDC conducted a u-turn on its  earlier interpretation of "proximity" and granted Shades a licence in August 2012, despite the club being surrounded by residential developments.

This approach by the Regulatory Committee undermines a fundamental principle of the rule of law which is legal certainty. The principle exists to prevent arbitrary applications of the law which create ambiguity and result in unfair treatment. If the meaning of close proximity was defined clearly to mean the reasonable distance of "within 500 metres" this would ensure consistent equal treatment of both applicants and objectors, and prevent any future arbitrary interpretations of the SEV policy.

This petition was delivered to:
  • Warwick District Council

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