In 2014, Facebookers and Tweeters of Manchester were unequivocally outraged! The level of outraged was on par with that of a vegan visiting Reds BBQ for the first time when they realised even salad and fries was given a nice hot bath in a tank of animal fat. The source of this outpouring was a noise complaint from someone living next door to legendary Night & Day. Johnny Marr and Frank Turner passionately urged people to join fellow keyboard warriors and sign the online petition, while the person behind the complaints went anonymously on record with NME with tales of death threats and misery.
So basically, some simpleton that fell in love with the bustling Northern Quarter for its culture, its nightlife and 24-hour party people scene moved next door to a music venue that had been there for 23 years and then complained when they could hear music, the phrase “no shit, Sherlock” comes to mind. So Night & Day were ordered to sort it out or face closure; queue the petitions, trolling and social media hysteria. Skip to the end of the saga and Night & Day is still here, but not all venues have survived the cull caused by changes in planning law which results in flats popping on streets never designed to be residential. Around 35% of music venues across the country have closed in the past decade. These venues play a key role in supporting the music industry’s ecosystem and are vital in nurturing new talent.
In 2017, we at Sonder also fell foul of local residents pissing on our parade when the Whiskey Jar was forced to pull out as a venue one day into the 3-day festival due to previous noise complaints. This, along with a string of capacity restrictions being slapped on venues was the reason for moving the festival out of the Northern Quarter and into the more venue friendly Oxford Rd corridor.
While I do entirely acknowledge the city centre needs housing and in order to meet the ever-growing demand, planning permission has become laxer so that offices, car parks and disused buildings across the country can be converted into residences. Unfortunately, right next door to those offices and car parks are the music venues.
I also agree that having to listen to snare drums nightly at 2 am must be about as pleasant as having a troop of mice attempt to River Dance on your hungover head with clogs on. But making venues solely responsible for this and threatening them with thousands in fines and closure is about as fair as a fist fight between a T-rex and a Pug dog.
The law stated that whoever is making the noise is always responsible for the noise and this is where the Agent of Change Bill that is being promoted by former Government minister John Spellar MP comes in. The key to it is that the person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change.
This basically means that when trendy apartments are built near an established live music venue the developer would have to pay for soundproofing or if a live music venue wants to open in a residential area then the venue would be responsible for the costs. So if someone has decided to move next to a music venue according to the law it means they have made that decision fully understanding that there’s going to be some music noise and therefore tough luck.
So on January 18th, the government announced that it will add the ‘agent of change’ principle to the National Planning Policy Framework. That’s the thing local authorities must follow when considering planning applications by property developers.
So have local music venues been saved with the introduction of this bill? Well only time will tell as the property sector will no doubt be putting on pressure to water down the bill in order to increase profits despite the long term damage to the vibrancy of an area but it’s definitely a high Converse loving step in the right direction in support of Manchester’s music scene.
For more info check out musicvenuetrust.com.