Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council set to reject plans for two sex shops in city

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council is set to reject two applications for sex shops in our city centre.

Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed that after a business man who took his fight for a sex shop licence to the House of Lords, a fresh application has been submitted for a premises on Gresham Street.

Last month a second application was submitted for an application for a licence for a second sex shop on Gresham Street.

However, Belfast City Council seems likely to reject both applications.

A meeting of the council's licensing committee heard Gresham Street is to be regenerated under the Future Belfast plans.

There are a number of unlicensed sex shops currently operating in the Gresham Street area, however committee members were told last week that two on Smithfield Square North have closed recently following council enforcement action.

The council currently has a policy to not allow any sex shops in the Gresham Street area. The committee has made a unanimously backed recommendation to maintain that policy.

The final decision will be taken at a meeting of the full council next Monday.

However, SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy said he believed the committee would be open to hearing an application for such a shop in a different location - one outside the main city centre, where families and children would be less likely to come across them.

He said both applicants only suggested Gresham Street as a venue.

There has only been one sex shop granted a licence in Northern Ireland, in an industrial estate in Mallusk. Newtownabbey Borough Council allowed that licence in 2006.

Applications for licences to open a sex shop on Gresham Street have been made to Belfast City Council a number of times, in 1989, 1996 and 2003. All were rejected.

In 2003 the council refused a licence for the proposed shop Miss Behavin' and announced a total ban on sex shops in the Gresham Street area, saying it felt the city centre street, which is close to churches and family shops, was an "unacceptable" location.

The owner of Miss Behavin' appealed this and the Court of Appeal ruled against the council. However, in 2007 five law lords overturned that judgment

Speaking earlier this year, Brian Hope - the business man behind the first submission this year for a license for a shop on Gresham Street - urged councillors to allow his application, claiming he wanted to be able to run a legal sex shop and help to clean up the industry here.

He said he had financial backers in England that will allow him to open a three-storey business and employ up to five staff.

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