Anger over Leeds ‘managed zone’

Laura Walton
Laura Walton

A Holbeck resident has announced she will stand for election in May in an effort to close down the “failed” managed approach to the area’s red light zone.

Laura Walton, who owns a shop on Crosby Terrace, said she had witnessed first hand “the detrimental effect” the so-called sex workers’ managed zone was having on residents.

She blamed a lack of resources being allocated to the zone.

The Holbeck scheme – thought to be a first in the country – allows street sex workers to operate in a designated area during certain hours without fear of arrest.

Ms Walton, who plans to stand as an independent, said: “All that appears to have been achieved is the creation of what is in effect an arrest-free ‘meet and greet’ area.”

She said the effect of the “failed experiment” was that sex workers were now looking for customers outside the zone in residential areas.

And she claims this has resulted in children and young girls being approached by “kerb crawlers”.

It comes after a heated community meeting in Holbeck this week, which saw angry residents air their views about the initiative.

Ed Carlisle, who lives in Beeston Hill and is a Green Party representative for the area, said that although residents were now being included in decision-making, questions remained over the managed zone.

He said: “Are there enough resources to manage the scheme? And can the situation be reined in, or do we need to explore other approaches?”

Mr Carlisle added: “Time will tell.”

A spokesman for Safer Leeds, which brings together Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police and other partners, said it had made further changes to the ‘managed approach’, which was under continuous review.

Acknowledging that more still needed to be done, he said: “We have changed the operational hours, established a dedicated policing team and increased environmental budgets.”

He said there would also be ongoing dialogue with residents to assist with the management and effective targeting of resources in an effort to continue to tackle sex work which has remained “a prominent issue” for a number of years.