RESIDENTS of Holbeck have hit out at planning chiefs after a drop-in counselling centre for prostitutes was given approval.
As reported in the YEP yesterday (April 3), the Joanna charity - which has done outreach work with working girls in the area for a decade - had applied for planning permission to turn a derelict former caretaker’s house in Sydenham Street into an office and counselling centre offering advice and support. The charity wants to move from its city centre base because the majority of its work is with women working in Holbeck.
However dozens of local residents had lodged complaints, amid fears it would actually attract more anti-social behaviour.
At a Leeds City Council plans panel meeting yesterday, Stephen Peacock, secretary of the Cross Ingram Residents’ Association, said locals were not against the work of the charity, but objected to its location in a highly residential area.
“It’s in the middle of a council regeneration area,“ he told the panel.
“Which good family wants to come to a red-light area?
“It should be relocated to the city centre where it cans serve the whole of the city.”
Jackie Hird, from Joanna, told the panel the charity was targeting women who are already working in the Holbeck area but are struggling to access help.
Addressing concerns that locals had not been consulted enough, she said: “We had wanted to keep things low key, out of respect for local residents. We also wanted the centre to be discreet. Perhaps we were naive in that, and we apologise.”
After the plans panel voted the application through, angry residents - who had packed out the public gallery - shouted at the panel. “It’s disgusting, outrageous”, said one objector, and another shouted: “Let’s hope it comes to your doorstep”.
After the meeting, councillor Peter Gruen, the council’s Executive Member for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said: “The council’s strategy with regard to prostitution seeks, wherever possible, to help sex workers exit on-street sex work and minimise the negative impact on local communities. This project, alongside the important work of partner services, has the potential to play a considerable part in helping achieve these outcomes.”