The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Lap-dance clubs near homes and local schools give cause for concern
A year-long research project into people's attitudes to lap-dance and striptease clubs in towns and cities in England and Wales has found that most people are only concerned by them if they are situated too near their own homes or local schools.
Lead researcher Professor Phil Hubbard, of the University's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, found that although many residents consider lap-dance clubs 'lower the tone' of neighbourhoods, most do not consider clubs located in town centres to be a source of nuisance.
Women, people over the age of 40, those that have lived in their current home for over five years and those with children are most likely to argue there are too many lap-dance clubs in their town, the research found.
The research - funded by a £118,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council and jointly carried out by Dr Rachela Colosi of the University of Lincoln - is the first of its kind to study the regulation of the 241 lap-dance and striptease clubs in England and Wales and their impact on people's feelings of safety at night. It was prompted by the introduction of new powers to regulate Sexual Entertainment Venues under the Policing and Crime Act 2009.
Professor Hubbard said: 'Opposition to lap dancing venues appears mainly based on perceptions that clubs normalize sexism and promote anti-social behaviour rather than any direct experience of crime. Our study did not uncover any evidence that these clubs cause more nuisance or crime than other night-time venues.
'The majority of our respondents appeared unconcerned about clubs so long as they were not located near schools or places where they might be particularly visible to young people.'
Professor Hubbard said that most local authorities have now adopted the new powers for licensing lap dancing clubs and have sought to develop guidelines indicating where clubs may or may not be located.
'Some local authorities have gone so far to suggest that no new clubs will be permitted, indicating that there are no suitable localities within their boundaries for such clubs: examples include Enfield, St Albans, Haringey, Harrow, Richmond on Thames, Tower Hamlets, Havant, Havering, North Tyneside, the City Corporation of London, Wellingborough, Winchester, and Hackney,' he said.
'Other local authorities - for example, Maidstone, Lambeth, Leicester, Bristol, Ealing, and Warwick - have refused applications for venues.'
Fifty-five per cent of all respondents in the research felt lap dancing clubs are appropriate in town and city centres. However, the majority of people felt lap-dancing clubs are inappropriate near to schools (83%) or religious buildings (65%). Very few (3%) felt clubs are suitable in residential areas, even though those living closer to them were no more likely than those living further away to report any nuisance being generated by lap-dancing clubs.
Around one in ten respondents felt that there is no suitable location for lap-dancing clubs whatsoever; women constituted the majority of these respondents, though it was also evident that those over forty were less tolerant of lap-dancing clubs than younger people.
However, not all clubs were perceived to have similar impacts on their locality. Some clubs were judged to be better managed and less likely to be lowering the tone, primarily on the basis of their external appearance. Signage or club names that implied sexual connotations were more likely to attract comments and anxiety, while blacked out windows appeared to arouse suspicion and were thought to lend some clubs a 'sleazy appearance'.
Dr Colosi said: 'Those viewed as 'sexualising' the street are most likely to cause offence, and create fear among those already fearful of the city at night.'
Story published at 9:12am 18 January 2013