Sawtry sex shop licensing flawed

COMMENTS posted on line after HDC’s decision to license a pornographic sex shop at Sawtry suggest many people are not aware of the anomalies in the licensing laws that contributed to their decision.

For example, Cocktails Ltd did not even need to apply for a licence just to open a sex shop, but the licence will now allow them to sell and to show trailers of R18 – ie pornographic – DVDs at this new shop.

Some comments said the HDC committee had no choice – an expensive appeal would result if the licence were rejected. Not true, for there is no right of appeal if the licence is refused as “inappropriate for the character of the relevant locality”.

However, our councillors – presumably having watched these pornographic DVDs when they visited the Cocktails shop at Grantham – decided the content of these films (too extreme to be sold on the internet) was appropriate for the character of Sawtry. I wonder what this says about our district councillors or their opinions of Sawtry.

Others said only a minority of Sawtry residents wrote to object. Cocktails Ltd originally hid the legal application notice out of sight on the Little Chef building and, if walkers had not accidentally stumbled across it, the law would have allowed the application to be nodded through by HDC without a hearing, and no-one in Sawtry would have been any the wiser.

After a Sawtry public meeting on August 25 the law allowed residents just 14 days – in the middle of the summer holidays – to raise objections. Despite this, HDC received the largest number of objections ever received for any licence application – but still issued the licence.

Others, who say they welcome the new shop, say we are too prudish and out of touch with today’s scene. Perhaps, but we still argue the law is biased in favour of such sex shops and think this has generated an attitude too laissez-faire in sexual matters.

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Should we care that, compared to Europe, we have the highest number of teenage pregnancies and abortions, and far too many single parent families?

So will this new sex shop on our doorstep – not a relatively innocent Ann Summers but one licensed by the law to sell hard core porn –help this situation or not?

I wonder what these free-spirited people will say when their teenage children admit they are about to be accidental parents. Will they say: “Never mind – come and watch this pornographic DVD with us?

One comment on the Internet asks if our local MP will demand the licensing laws be changed, and I think he should. Objectors need an automatic right to speak at a hearing instead of needing permission to do so. They need an automatic right of appeal. Objections need to be allowed on grounds of morality or indecency. Clear legal definitions of the terms “character” and “locality” are vital, and licences should be granted only for private, discreet locations – away from substantial residential areas.


The Maltings