Holbeck residents call on Leeds MP Hilary Benn to challenge 'legal' red light zone

Residents stepped up their campaign to bring an end to what has been dubbed Britain's first '˜legal' red light zone when they staged a protest outside their MP's latest constituency surgery in Holbeck.

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Campaigners armed with placards gathered outside St Matthew’s Community Centre yesterday in opposition to the controversial ‘managed approach’ to street sex work.

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Leeds MP Hilary Benn to visit Holbeck residents as they protest against 'managed...

Laura Walton, who is part of a group set up by the council to gather residents’ views, said she had seen an increase in sex work since the scheme began.

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“It’s attracted more women to the area because they can work without fear of prosecution,” she said. “The men are coming here from all over.”

Introduced by community safety partnership Safer Leeds in October 2014, the scheme allows street sex workers to operate in parts of Holbeck during certain hours, with the aim of getting more of the women to engage with support services.

But residents have become increasingly vocal about the negative impact on surrounding streets and regular breaches of the scheme’s rules.

Joyce Adamson, 75, said she often found used needles and condoms on her doorstep, while other elderly residents had complained about people having sex outside their homes.

“If anybody says to me where do you live, I don’t say Holbeck any more,” she said. “You get tarred with the same brush.”

After speaking to Mr Benn, she remained sceptical about the chance of any improvement, branding him a “typical MP”.

But the Labour MP said he would be raising their concerns with Safer Leeds.

“Nobody should look out of their home and see people having sex in their garden – that’s not a way to live.”

He said one of the original arguments in favour of the scheme was that it should move the existing street sex workers away from residential areas.

“It’s clearly not working for some of the women who are completely ignoring the rules of the scheme,” he said. “The council and the police have got to have an answer to that because it can’t carry on like this.”