7:00pm Monday 17th October 2011
By Oliver Evans
THE number of city sex shops and lap dancing clubs could be capped under new plans.
Oxford City Council is bidding to restrict the number of “sex establishments” over concerns about the impact on the city.
Last year it took on extra powers, which allowed it to refuse licenses for venues near schools, tourist destinations, shops, homes and places of worship.
But the new powers would set a cap in six areas: north, north east, east, Cowley, south easy and central, south and west.
No numbers have been suggested by council leaders.
Labour council leader Bob Price said: “If you took it to the limit, you would have a city centre that looked a bit like the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and Soho.
“It would not be the kind of Oxford that would be particularly attractive to tourists, maybe not all tourists, but not the right type.”
Last year’s changes meant Thirst Lodge, the city’s only lap dancing club, lost its licence for its premises in Pennyfarthing Place.
Councillors said the club, at the back of the Westgate Shopping Centre, was too close to churches, shops and tourist attractions.
Yet it won council backing in July to open at the former Coven nightclub in Oxpens Road.
Councillors supported the move as its 11pm opening did not clash with nearby Oxford Ice Rink and Oxford & Cherwell Valley College.
Club owner Al Thompson, who hopes to open on Thursday, November 17, said he was not opposed to the principle of a cap.
He said: “It depends what the cap is that they decide on. We will have to wait and see.”
St Ebbe’s Church, which has opposed the club’s licenses as it “undermines God’s gift of marriage”, declined to comment on the new plans.
The council’s draft policy says: “We do not seek to take a moral stand in licensing sex establishments.
“We recognise that Parliament has made it lawful to operate a sex establishment and that such businesses are a legitimate part of the retail and leisure industries.”
Yet it “recognises that different parts of the city have different characteristics” in setting numbers.
The cap would apply to sex shops, sex cinemas and “sexual entertainment venues” such as lap dancing clubs.
The council’s general purposes licensing committee will be asked to give its views on a cap on October 19.
A consultation would then be held from November 14 to December 31 with a final decision made by all councillors in April.
The committee meets at Oxford Town Hall at 6pm.
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