Was Leeds legal red light zone a failure? Leading councillor says only Holbeck residents could answer that question

One of the city's most senior decision-makers refused to be drawn on whether she thought its controversial approach to on-street sex work had been a success, insisting: "I'll leave that for residents to decide".

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 4:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 4:23 pm

The comment by Leeds City Council deputy leader Debra Coupar followed an announcement that it planned to the Managed Approach - a scheme which allows prostitutes to operate in a part of Holbeck at certain times without fear of arrest.

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The scheme was introduced back in 2014 with the intention of making communities safer, and increasing the amount of support received by street sex workers.

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A protest held in Holbeck in 2018 in opposition to the Managed Approach to on-street sex work. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

It has since been dogged by controversy, with many complaining of antisocial behaviour and non-sex workers being approached for business in residential parts of Holbeck.

But council and police officers say the scheme has helped reduce the number of sex workers operating in the streets of Leeds.

Coun Coupar said: "On the judgement of success or otherwise, I would leave that to the community to decide whether they feel it has been successful.

"We have had many benefits that have come from the Managed Approach. We have had the dedicated policing resources and cleansing resources to deal with issues relating to the managed approach."

She claimed Holbeck had benefited from "wider police resources" being used in the area, and that the structures put in place by the Managed Approach had helped to identify issues around drugs, alcohol, and anti-social behaviour.

Coun Coupar added: "I can see many benefits brought to the community because of it, but I accept it has been a difficult and bumpy road for some of the residents in the local community.

"When we started with the managed approach, on-street sex work was driven away from residential areas into this geographical area. It helped local residents at the time.

"I accept over the years the benefits have not always been sustained in that way, but over the last two or three years where we have put that dedicated resource in, it has made a huge difference to people in Holbeck. I have heard this myself from many local residents and people within the community.

"I will leave them to discuss whether it was a success or not."

Plans to end the scheme will go before the council's Executive Board on Wednesday June 23 and are expected to be finalised in early July.