Police and council chiefs have announced a review of the “managed area” for prostitution in Leeds following a public backlash.
In a statement to the Home Affairs Select Committee, the force added: “The casualty of the reporting has been an upsurge in opposition to the approach by local businesses. They view the local area as highly damaged by the publicity and are seeking to actively challenge its validity and outcomes.”
A spokesman for Safer Leeds – a partnership of police, council and other organisations – said the decision to carry out a review was taken after officials “listened closely to the views of business owners and representatives in the community”.
He added: “A variety of work is currently being undertaken to improve and strengthen aspects of the project which have been raised as an issue, and these will continue to be assessed as part of the review. “This includes how the area is policed and enforced, communication with residents and business owners, and how cleansing services can be further enhanced. The safety and wellbeing of sex workers remains an absolute priority for all partners, and work will be continuing with agencies to ensure the best possible support is made available.”
The managed area was quietly introduced in October 2014 following concerns that years of law enforcement had failed to address the issue of prostitution. It was made permanent after a 12-month pilot, with supporters saying public complaints about had fallen and levels of trust between sex workers had dramatically improved.
However publicity surrounding the scheme, fuelled by the murder of sex worker Daria Pionko in December, led to fierce debate about the policy.
Andrew Carter, leader of the Tory opposition on Leeds City Council, has welcomed the review. He said: “In my view the situation was getting out of hand with a number of high profile incidents that can only be described as tragedies and concerns from businesses and residents alike about how the scheme was being operated and managed.
He added: “If it is to continue I, and many Leeds residents, will need to be persuaded that it will be properly managed with a strong police presence and proper measures to ensure that litter and the impact on residents and businesses will be minimised.”