Leeds red light zone review suggests positive campaign to promote best of Holbeck
Promoting the positives of life in Holbeck has been recommended after an independent review heard how the management of Leeds' red light district was affecting outside views.
Schoolchildren involved in the consultation spoke about how they felt when the top 10 results generated by an online search for Holbeck all related to street sex work.
And women living there reported that men passing through Holbeck’s residential areas felt entitled to beep car horns and shout vulgar remarks at them because of the area's association with the controversial Managed Approach (MA).
The review by a Huddersfield University team had been commissioned by Leeds City Council to look at how effective the MA scheme was proving, amid questions from some councillors about whether it should be abandoned altogether.
Begun as a pilot by the Safer Leeds community partnership in 2014, it allows sex workers to operate on certain non-residential streets in Holbeck and within agreed hours without fear of arrest.
The aims from the outset have been to reduce the prevalence of street-based sex working, lessen the problems it creates for residents and local businesses, and better engage with the women involved to improve their safety and health.
But complaints previously aired by residents about women being harassed were among the issues highlighted when the review team spoke to members of the community in Holbeck.
Review lead Professor Jason Roach said: “It was to do with men driving through Holbeck, realising they were in Holbeck, and thinking it was funny to toot their horns. If you’re getting that day in, day out, it’s very distressing for people.”
The review team recommended a campaign promoting the positive aspects of being part of Holbeck life and respect for all in the community, to be developed and presented alongside residents and businesses.
It also suggested an inclusive and co-ordinated PR and media strategy for the whole of Holbeck to promote its strengths and help to shift perceptions of the area away from being solely about street sex work.
Reflecting on time spent with the community, Prof Roach said: “There’s a million really good things going on in Holbeck and the people are absolutely wonderful – that needs attention.”
The recommendations were among a number put forward in the independent review, which concluded that the current approach to managing the red light district in Leeds should remain but must continue to evolve.
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