SEXUAL entertainment venues are now banned from opening in Bedford Borough after councillors unanimously voted to approve a nil policy on Thursday night.
Individual applications may still be submitted and will be considered on their own merit but after members of Bedford Borough Council’s licensing committee decided that there was nowhere in the Borough which was appropriate for such a venue, it is unlikely they will be given the go-ahead.
The onus is now on the applicant to prove that their venue would in fact be appropriate in the area.
During the debate on Thursday, members discussed the legality of making such a decision versus the views of the public.
A consultation between November last year and February, showed that more than 3,000 people expressed their support for the authority to adopt a nil policy.
Speaking at the meeting, Bedford resident, Bernice Chiswell, said: “There are many problems associated with SEVs from the objectification of women through to rape. They can also result in no go areas for women.
“The law permits a nil policy and just because licences have been granted in the past doesn’t mean they should be granted in the future.”
The decision follows a similar ban by Wellingborough Council last year.
Councillor Alison Foster said: “The consultation shows people want a nil policy and I think as a committee we should listen to them and shouldn’t take the wrong decision just to avoid the possibility of a legal challenge in the future.”
Councillor Sally-Anne Smith praised the new policy saying that the authority has never previously had such a robust system in place. She said having read through it she was comforted by the power it would give the council when considering application which made refusing applications difficult in the past.
Reacting to the result, former councillor and campaigner against SEVS, Peter Chiswell, said: “This sends a clear signal out to people considering applying to open a venue in Bedford that we do not want them here.
“The last application for one of these places in Bedford was objected to by more than 2,000 people.”