We had a major victory today as objections to Villa Mercedes' application to open a new lap dancing club in the city centre led to the company withdrawing its application.
Groups from across the city including Labour MPs, community groups representing vulnerable people, educational institutions and feminist campaigners came together to put forward their issues with opening a new lap dancing club in the centre, close to the train station, organisations that look after vulnerable people and a school.
I was represented there by my senior caseworker, Nikki Bond. You can read her speech that she made at the meeting here:
I would like to begin by reminding Councillors what Professor Jay and Professor Casey said about the way that a culture of misogyny contributed to child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.
Only last week, we heard from the Children's Society that a third of girls aged 10 to 15 years old are unhappy with their appearance and they feel massively under pressure to look a certain way.
These are not moral arguments. This is about the future of our children, and specifically our girls, who at the moment, are not fulfilling their potential because they feel miserable and that they aren't good enough.
The protection of children from harm is one of the licensing objectives and I strongly feel that lapdancing clubs are a risk to children because they perpetuate the feelings of inadequacy that are identified by the Children's Society, whilst reinforcing male entitlement and misogyny, which Professor Jay and Casey link to the sexual abuse of children.
Furthermore, the Public Sector Equality Duty clearly states the requirement for local authorities to give due regard to the need to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic, and those who do not. It also involves having due regard to the need to tackle prejudice and promote understanding.
Lapdancing clubs clearly do not foster good relations, and certainly not equal relations, between men and women, and men and every other protected characteristic. As an example, the Equality Impact Assessment concludes that the impact on transgender people is neutral. Nell Stockton, Chair of Barnsley Gender Equality Forum and a trans woman responded as follows:
"No impact on trans people - really? So these privileged men who think it's ok to ogle semi naked (or naked - I'm not sure which) aren't the same ones who go round shouting transphobic abuse? Incredible. I give Spearmint Rhino a very wide berth when it's open."
Clearly, the location of the proposed venue contravenes the Council's SEV licensing policy, which I am sure other objectors will elaborate on.
Finally, this venue has no planning permission in place and therefore, I would urge the committee to at least defer the application, but preferably throw it out altogether in order that it can live up to its reputation as a city that is welcoming and inclusive to all.