Judge overrules council’s bid for ‘unlimited strip clubs’ in seaside town

A judge has overruled a town’s proposed policy of having a potentially unlimited number of lapdancing and strip clubs.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council fostered the idea in November 2021.

But concerns were soon raised that it would have a negative impact on women’s safety.

Judge Justice Choudhury highlighted the comments of a sexual abuse survivor, who had raised the potential damage the policy could cause, when deciding.

He ruled the council had ignored objections from those concerned with the policy.

He said: ‘I have come to the view that the sex equality-based concerns raised by consultees, although referenced by the (council) were not the subject of conscientious consideration by it and were instead treated as largely irrelevant to the decision.’

The council had received 206 responses to the first consultation on the proposals and 70% disagreed with the policy of no cap on the number of venues.

A second consultation received 176 responses, and on this occasion 76% of people disagreed with the policy.

A council meeting held in 2021 argued the premises provided employment for female dancers and that ‘many dancers have degrees and others use their earnings to fund education’.

There was found to be ‘little evidence of links to trafficking or prostitution’, but councillors acknowledged there were suggestions that venues ‘normalise the objectification of women and can have an impact on women’s safety in the locality’.

A report stated most workers at current venues in the region felt ‘safe and secure in their chosen work environment and they did not feel exploited but empowered’.

But Judge Choudhury ruled: ‘There is, in particular, a distinct absence of any action addressing the broader sex equality-based concerns.

‘That absence tends to support the impression given elsewhere that these concerns were effectively side-lined as being ‘moral objections’ that are not relevant to the defendant’s policy decisions.’

The judge said he reached his conclusion ‘with some reluctance’ because the council had undertaken ‘an otherwise diligent and extensive consultation’.

He added: ‘Regrettably … the defendant has consistently downplayed and/or side-lined sex equality-based concerns which ought to have been the subject of conscientious consideration before reaching a final decision.’

There are currently three sexual entertainment venues in the area, all in Bournemouth town centre.

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