Sawtry’s unanimous ‘No’ to sex shop plan

MORE than 200 people last night dodged the rain to show their unanimous opposition to a sex shop being opened on the outskirts of their village.

MORE than 200 people last night dodged the rain to show their unanimous opposition to a sex shop being opened on the outskirts of their village.

A three-part motion of action was unanimously voted through at Sawtry Community College after 90 minutes of debate at a public meeting.

The motion, which was proposed by former county council leader Keith Walters, who lives in the centre of the village, is opposing an application for a license to open a sex establishment at junction 15 of the north-bound A1M. He is chairman of pressure group NOSAWTRYSEXSHOP.

Afterwards, he said: “I was amazed at the turn-out on such an unpleasant night right in the middle of peak holiday period. We have got something out of it and that’s the main thing.”

The motion demanded:

- Huntingdonshire District Council’s licensing panel refuse the application because it would be inappropriate for the character of the locality

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- That Sawtry Parish Council meet to establish its views on the application and send those to the district council before the September 8 deadline for comments

- Huntingdonshire District Council establishes a policy on sex establishments in the district before hearing the application

The meeting was chaired by ward councillor Darren Tysoe, who confirmed his opposition, saying: “There was a unanimous and strong message delivered tonight – we don’t want a sex shop in Sawtry and many of these people will be there when councillors on the panel make their decision. This must impact on the character of a residential village.”

During the meeting he read out his objection letter to the licensing panel, which stated: “This is a sex shop on the entrance to the village. It will cast a shadow over Sawtry as a great place to live.”

Support for the villagers came from North East Cambs MP Shailesh Vara through a statement, the village rector and governors of the village school and college. These were heard by district council leader, Councillor Ian Bates, who commented: “I am hear to listen.”

Mr Walters made the opening address, saying he lived in a village: “Which is not deemed big enough to support a bank or a building society, nor a butcher or a baker or a candlestick-maker for that matter, but apparently can support a sex shop.”

He said Rotherham-based Cocktails Ltd, which operates 23 sex shops, was looking for �200,000 a year turnover – “and that’s not possible from a village this size”.

He said the operators were far from “being an Ann Summers shop” as the company website stated it sold films which were “too explicit to sell on the internet and could only be sold in a shop like this”.

The only two reasons HDC could give for refusal which would mean the decision could not be appealed against, he said, were: “Having a sex shop was against that council’s policy or it was inappropriate in regard of the character of the locality. No more excuses at Pathfinder House (headquarters of HDC) – you’re hands are not tied.”

Grandfather Alan Morris read out Mr Vara’s statement which confirmed his opposition, saying he was: “Appalled that something so out of character could even be considered.” He urged the district council to come up with a policy which stated no sex shops were allowed in the area, something Mr Walters suggested in The Hunts Post last week.

Tinkers Lane resident Pauline Potter reported on her visit to a Cocktails Ltd establishment on the A1 near Grantham, saying it catered for extreme sexual tastes and was screening pornographic movies.

“And that place wasn’t two minutes’ walk from a residential area,” she pointed out.

Graham Smith said the opening of a sex shop would affect house prices and the desirability of the village.

“Most villages off the A1 have a nice sign with some flowers at their gateway. We’ll have a sex shop,” he said.

He also stated: “This company will have to have very conspicuous advertising all around the area, in the fields. You can protect your children against porn on the internet, but now you won’t be able to protect them from porn in their own village.”

Another resident, James Gillespie, added: “This will not be the end of this company’s ambitions. They could set-up a sex cinema in the old Travel Lodge hotel next door. It will be a sex retail park on our doorstep.”

INFORMATION: Comments about the application must be submitted to the district council by September 8. Sawtry Parish Council has called an extra-ordinary meeting to discuss its response on that evening.