A Conservative Party Police and Crime Commissioner has blocked a licence for a gay sauna – because the location is too close to a mosque, which she said might cause “policing issues”.
The sauna’s owners withdrew the application after receiving a barrage of homophobic abuse from the local Muslim community.
Greenhouse Health Club in Luton has been operating for 18 years, but an application lodged by its owners for an entertainment license, which would allow them to sell sex toys and screen adult films, sparked fierce opposition from the local community – championed by Bedfordshire PPC Kathryn Holloway, a former TV presenter.
The club is situated just five minutes from a major Luton mosque, and after meeting with local Muslims Mrs. Holloway decided that this was just too close for comfort.
In a letter of objection sent to Luton Borough Council (LBC), she said that the application had caused “widespread offence and very deep concern,” and warned that if it permission was granted “a number of potential policing issues may arise” due to the sauna’s proximity to a “very significant Luton mosque”.
She added: “Luton Borough Council is usually particularly aware of matters of cultural sensitivity.
“I trust therefore that you will fully understand that, given the large and devout Muslim population in this area of the borough, there is naturally a high level of religious and cultural opposition to such a business among these residents which needs to be respected, in my view.”
Her letter was at odds with the views of her own police force, who, in a separate submission to the council raised no concerns about the application.
PC Esther Read of Bedfordshire Police told the council: “The Police have no concerns relating to the Greenhouse Sex Establishment application. We anticipate that they will continue to operate in a professional manner and liaise with the police and other responsible authorities when required, as they have in previous years.”
But Mrs. Holloway’s views are in line with the local Muslim community, who created a furore over the application.
LBC told Luton Herald & Post that it had received 103 letters of objection, citing concerns over “cultural sensitivity”, the sauna’s “proximity to places of worship” and worries “about the number of families with young children living nearby”.
It also received a petition signed by 430 local residents which included homophobic comments with their signatures, including assertions that homosexuality is a “brain disease” and that it is caused by “incorrect thinking”.
Others slammed the health club as “crazy” and “dangerous for our children,” claiming the granting of the license “will bring unpleasant diseases to our communities”.
They also accused the owner of having “no shame” for his attempt to open something “so disgusting near and around holy surroundings”.
A spokesman for the gay rights charity Stonewall said that the comments were “homophobic and hateful”, and could “alienate and ostracise people”.
Mrs. Holloway has insisted that she knew nothing of the homophobic slurs, telling the paper: “I would never support any homophobic literature and I had no sight of any such material.
“I agreed to represent residents in Biscot as they felt incredibly strongly about it. I would have taken the exact same stance if it had been a heterosexual establishment.”
Commenting on the decision by the owners to withdraw the application, she added: “I think this is also a win for the wider gay community as this establishment is not representative of them as a whole.”