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Bullfinch case is 'no excuse' to refuse sex shop a new licence
A FORMER councillor has called for Oxford City Council to grant the re-licence of a sex shop ahead of a meeting to decide on its future today.
Patrick Gray, who served as a city councillor for the east and central ward between 1979 and 1990, said it was wrong for objectors to use the Bullfinch child abuse case to oppose the renewal of The Private Shop’s licence in Cowley Road.
Ten formal objections were made to the council against the renewal application submitted in June, including from Green councillors Craig Simmons and Dick Wolff, with many referencing comments made by lawyers in Bullfinch about a “sub-culture” on Cowley Road.
Mr Gray, 65, from East Oxford, said: “There is no connection to Bullfinch and the shop is behind closed doors.
“No evidence has been produced to support the assertion that it was responsible for the terrible crimes revealed by the Bullfinch enquiry.
“People have a choice whether they go to the shop or not and we do not want to live in a vigilante society.”
Mr Gray, who sent a letter with his wife, Winifred Gray, to the council last Monday, added that he was upset to find that the Divinity Road Area Residents’ Association (DRARA) had submitted a formal objection without consulting residents.
He is one of the founder members of the residents’ association.
He said: “Most people who we know in this area take issues of freedom of expression very seriously and would be deeply concerned by what would amount to censorship.
“The residents’ association ought to consult people.”
DRARA chairwoman Elizabeth Mills said: “I am sorry if anyone thinks we have stepped outside our brief and anyone can step forward to sit on the committee.”
One of the objections said: “In the light of Operation Bullfinch it is time that Oxford City Council planning department looked again at the issue of the rapid increase in the night-time economy on Cowley Road and any association with it as a potential red light district.”
Raja Nawaz, 55, a furniture trader in Cowley Road said it was “absolute rubbish” to link the sex shop with the Bullfinch case.
He said: “I’ve lived here for 45 years – it’s rubbish that it’s being linked to it.”
There were objections to the renewal of the shop’s licence in 2010 and 2011 based on its proximity to local churches and schools.
The licensing sub-committee meets at the Town Hall, St Aldate’s, at 5.30pm today.
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