Britain’s first official red light district has been hailed as the most effective way to deal with prostitution by academics despite their review being shunned by residents in the area.
The researchers claimed the highly controversial scheme that allows prostitutes to work in Leeds without fear of prosecution is "more effective" than other approaches to dealing with prostitution and should continue without any cut backs.
The red light district, launched in 2014, is at the heart of a national and international debate over the most effective way of regulating prostitution to combat trafficking, violence against women and high rates of sexual diseases including HIV.
The review, by Huddersfield University for the council's Safer Leeds partnership, said the scheme had "significantly improved" the health and safety of sex workers, reduced the prevalence of prostitution in the Holbeck area of Leeds and reduced the impact it had on people living in the area.
It also stated that a significant reduction in sex litter, such as used condoms, and drugs paraphernalia over the last two years had been "a major success" of the scheme, which currently costs the taxpayer around £200,000 a year.
However, it did conclude that the so-called “managed zone” had "neither functioned or performed well" until 2018, when the management structure was overhauled, a dedicated policing team was set up and communication with local residents improved.
The Daily Telegraph revealed in 2018 has been branded a failure by one of its key architects because it had not decreased violence and had led to a surge in sex and drug-taking in streets, parks and woods, sometimes in full view of children.
Thirty people, including 12 sex workers, three police officers and two councillors, were interviewed as part of the review and the report said that almost 75 per cent of the interviewees said the scheme "should remain but needed to change in some way.”
However, only 120 (six per cent) of the 1,940 Holbeck households invited to take part in a survey responded. And the review admitted this “very poor” response rate meant "the findings cannot be taken as representative of the people of Holbeck.”
A spokeswoman for Save our Eyes, the residents’ campaign group, said the review had covered a restricted geographical area and period which had failed to recognise the full impact of the scheme.
A highly critical report, based on interviews and public meetings with residents, is expected to be published next week. “The zone is supposed to be suspended because of the pandemic but they haven’t stopped. The street prostitution and pimping has started up again after lockdown,” said the spokeswoman.
Rather than liberalisation, the residents back what is called the “Nordic model” of regulation to be introduced in Britain under which the buying of sex is made illegal while prostitutes are helped to escape the sex trade.