Britain’s first legal red-light zone scrapped following years of complaints

Residents living in area said they regularly witnessed drug-taking, curb-crawling and indecency, while pupils at nearby school reported being propositioned

Colin Drury
Yorkshire
Wednesday 16 June 2021 09:40
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Britain’s first legal red-light district is to be scrapped following years of complaints about rising anti-social behaviour – including school children being propositioned for sex.

The so-called Managed Approach area in Leeds allowed sex workers to operate without prosecution from around a patch of the city’s Holbeck neighbourhood.

Advocates said the scheme – first set up in 2014 – helped improve safety for the oft-vulnerable workers while also providing easier access to help.

But local residents and businesses have repeatedly complained that the zone attracts drug use, curb-crawling, indecency and trafficking. In November, the head teacher at the nearby Ruth Gorse Academy told The Independent that pupils had been repeatedly propositioned for sex while walking through the area.

“They are being repeatedly exposed - at what is a really informative age - to things which they should not have to witness,” said Ben Mallinson. “Drug taking, and stepping over needles and condoms.”

Now Leeds City Council has said a year-long pause on the experiment will be made permanent.

It said it would offer a comprehensive plan to help sex workers in the West Yorkshire city instead.

Deputy leader Councillor Debra Coupar said: "We know it has been a bumpy road and it hasn't always been easy, but what we've learned through the Managed Approach has given us the opportunity to reflect on it and take it to a city-wide strategic level."

She said the measures brought in as part of the scheme to support sex workers and help them leave the industry would continue.

Responding to the decision, Mr Mallinson said: “The Managed Approach area created so much anxiety for the local community because people didn’t feel safe to walk their own streets. For our pupils, by witnessing this kind of activity everyday, it was normalising behavior that is not healthy.”

He added: “It’s excellent news that it’s been discontinued. It is the right decision, although it should have been made much sooner.”

Dennis Kitchen, chair of the Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum, which has campaigned for the zone to be scrapped, said the announcement was a “big step” but more needed to be done to now make the area safer for residents again.

He said: "We want to make sure that any punters coming to the area know the zone's closed and it's a 'no go' area. We don't want men coming in and harassing ordinary citizens, which is what has been happening."

The move will be put to the council's executive board on 23 June and is expected to be finalised in July.

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