BUSINESSES in Barnsley will be visited by mystery shoppers to make sure they are gay-friendly as part of a new project due to launch next month.

The Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Forum (LGBT) is launching a 'Rainbow Tick' scheme that businesses can sign up to show they are gay-friendly as part of a move that has already gained national interest from charity Stonewall. Any business that displays the Rainbow Tick will be given training on how to correctly deal with the gay community - as well as being mystery shopped to make sure they are keeping up standards.

It comes after three years of development which began after LGBT members said they felt excluded from Barnsley society. Diane Weston, who helped develop the tick, said: "We've had issues in the past when people have been out with their partners - there's been nothing seedy or sordid about it, they have just been holding hands - but they have been asked to leave to venue. A lesbian couple were stood at a pub in Barnsley with their arms around each other and the bar tender leaned over and seperated them - I'm not sure they would have done that to a heterosexual couple.

"The gay community live, work and spend in the Barnsley areas and they should have the same respect and rights to be able to go for a cup of coffee or bowling and know they are welcome just like any other customer. The LGBT commmunity shouldn't feel like they have to hide away or should only come out on one night - it is absolutely atrocious."

The Rainbow Tick will launch in February and any businesses wanting to sign up should contact the LGBT forum.