THE future of sexual entertainment venues in Swindon will be decided this year after the licensing committee voted to consult the public on tighter regulations.
Following talks with the four sex venues currently operating in the town centre, licensing officers recommended a resolution to consult across the borough on how the venues should be regulated in the future.
An initial consultation will ask the public if they want to see change or prefer the status quo, ahead of a detailed strategy going out for a 12-week consultation.
If approved, all existing venues would have to re-apply for a tailored licence, with tighter regulations.
Kathryn Ashton, licensing officer at Swindon Council, said: “It would include any venue where there is nudity or partial nudity. The resolution would then go out to public consultation to obtain their views.
“At first the only statutory obligation would be for existing venues, of which we currently have four in Swindon.
“That would include all sex shops and lap-dancing clubs.
“At the moment we can have those venues popping up anywhere in Swindon without control.
“With regulations any venue of a sexual nature would require a specific licence. This would give greater control over some aspects we currently cannot control, such as intimacy and touching.
“All four venues would have to re-apply for their licence, and we would look at all four as a whole.
“All four are currently regulated with proactive enforcement from three officers, but a resolution would allow us to set the criteria.”
Councillors expressed their concerns on the exact form the new licences should take and how the venues could be policed.
Coun Oliver Donachie (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “I am a little concerned about scope of the word sexual, which is open to interpretation, as is the word entertainment.
“There is also the question of businesses who use digital media that could be construed as sexual. The question is how we enforce this.
“In sexual entertainment venues you have a product and a service. “Regulation of the service is fine, but the product is more difficult. There are already laws to deal with the product.”
Coun Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden and Eldene) said: “I am concerned about censorship in any form or drawing judgement on any people’s wishes.
“There is a great deal of abuse of morality, even on the high street, but people do whatever they want behind closed doors.
“It is the impact upon other people we should concern ourselves with.
“I would not want anyone to pass unfair judgements on me."
Coun Steve Wakefield (Lab, Mannington and Western) was concerned about the potential of creating designated areas for sexual entertainment in prominent places.
“Putting things in the centre of town is not necessarily the best place because everyone gets access to it,” he said.
“If you were to determine a certain area, we should make sure they do not all end up on the same street, particularly a main thoroughfare.
“That is one of the things that should be very clear in any consultation.”