‘Managed’ Leeds sex trade zone in the spotlight

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A trailblazing ‘managed red light district’ project in Holbeck has “drastically improved” trust between sex workers and the police and helped reduce complaints from local residents - but more work needs to be done.

That’s the conclusion of a council watchdog panel, after it debated the success of the scheme yesterday.

The YEP reported earlier this year that the groundbreaking scheme allows women in the sex trade to operate freely between the hours of 7pm and 7am within a specified “managed area”, as long as they stick to a list of rules.

Since the project was launched, there has been a marked increase in sex workers reporting crimes, with almost 80 per cent of women now reporting offences and attacks against them.

One man has recently been jailed for eight years for raping a sex worker as a result of the project, the meeting at Leeds Civic Hall heard.

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However the panel was told that a lot more still needs to be done to protect locals and businesses from anti-social behaviour and littering resulting from the tolerant approach. The problem belongs to the whole city, not just to Holbeck, the meeting heard.

Councillor Angela Gabriel, who represents the Beeston and Holbeck ward on the council, urged council bosses to provide extra resources for the area. “Progress has been made. But everybody decided that it was Holbeck’s problem and it was going to stay in Holbeck. We have had no resources. The council needs to step up,” she said.

Councillor Asghar Khan warned that rather than the managed zone confining the vice trade entirely to the industrial area, some of the girls were “moving towards Beeston now...to where families live, in the heart of the community”.

Neil Evans, the council’s director of environment and housing, told colleagues that there had been “significant” positive results from the scheme, and a “considerable drop in the number of complaints by residents”.

But he acknowledged that “it’s not perfect”, adding: “We are dealing with a difficult situation which is hard to completely eradicate. It has been a positive step and a brave one.”

MP Rachel Reeves.

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