Dec 1, 2022 4 min read

Manchester City Council officials criticised as Night & Day noise dispute continues in court

Neighbour who complained about Night & Day noise spent £21k on sound insulation, but had to move out of flat after ongoing noise and backlash caused stress. Meanwhile MVT boss Mark Davyd says redevelopment of neighbouring building "should not have passed planning".

The lawyer representing Manchester’s Night & Day venue, in its ongoing appeal against a noise abatement notice issued by the city’s council, was yesterday critical of the council officers who dealt with the noise complaint that led to the notice.

Night & Day says that if the notice remains in force it will have to close, because complying with the order will require a change to its operations that will make the whole business unviable. It’s also claimed that Manchester City Council failed to enforce its own planning requirements when the residential property next to the venue was redeveloped 20 years ago, which resulted in said residential property having insufficient soundproofing.

Yesterday the court heard from the two council employees who responded to the crucial noise complaint last year that had been made by residents living next to Night & Day, who bought the property in question during the COVID lockdowns. The council officials attended the property at around 2am on 13 Nov last year.

The two officials, Lorraine Banbrick and Jonathon Mathers, said they did not measure the noise levels in the venue or adjacent property, but that they felt the noise was “excessive”, and that it was at a level that would prevent sleep in the residential property.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Banbrick told the court that “nuisance” is a “subjective assessment”, and they were confident in their conclusion that the noise levels on that night were indeed excessive and therefore a nuisance.

She added that she spoke to a member of staff at Night & Day on that night because “a solution in my eyes at that time would have been to reduce the volume of music”. However, she was “going round in circles” when speaking to that staff member, she claimed.

Mathers then insisted that the council had “exhausted all possible” options before subsequently issuing the abatement notice, but admitted he had not considered whether the venue would even be able to comply with it.

Night & Day’s lawyer Sarah Clover told the court that CCTV from the venue on that night showed the staff member who had spoken to the council officials turning down the volume after the conversation. She also criticised the processes employed by the council officials.

Neither Banbrick and Mathers still have the notes they recorded on 13 Nov, with Mathers not writing his formal statement on the matter until April this year. “That’s sloppy at best, suspicious at worst”, the lawyer stated. “It’s particularly unacceptable when the council’s case is founded on things that people have supposedly said and done on that night”.

Clover also noted that both officers had previously been called out to the same property regarding noise issues and on those occasions had not considered the complaint amounted to nuisance. The council officers were also unaware of a planning condition from before the flat was built that allowed noise of up to 35db in the venue, which is actually slightly higher than actual noise levels that have been recorded there.

A big part of the problem here, Clover added, is that the different departments of Manchester City Council work “in silos”.

Later in the day, the court also heard from the complainant, Rex Chesney, who admitted that he and his partner moved to Manchester’s Northern Quarter because of its “character” and “vibrancy”. Supporters of Night & Day argue that that part of Manchester is only vibrant because of businesses like Night & Day, which helped transform a run down and undesirable part of the city into the cultural hub it is today.

However, Chesney said, while he was aware he was moving into a part of Manchester with an active nightlife, he did not expect noise levels from the neighbouring venue that would “make water ripple in a cup by the bed” in the early hours of the morning, making the property’s bedrooms “uninhabitable”.

Chesney added that he and his partner spent £21,000 on sound insulation in the apartment, but still couldn’t sleep when club nights were taking place at Night & Day. He also talked about how the backlash to the noise complaint had made him “very uncomfortable” living in Manchester. With the ongoing noise issues and the stress of the backlash, he and his partner actually moved out of the property in May this year.

The hearing about the noise abatement notice will now resume on 17 Jan.

Of course, the real problem here is that Manchester City Council failed to ensure that the noise issues were dealt with when the residential property next to Night & Day was first developed, despite anticipating said issues. With that in mind, some campaigners feel that the council now needs to make proactive moves to address the problems which that failure has created.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd proposed once possible solution in a Facebook post earlier today. “The building of this residence was a mistake”, he writes.

“It should not exist. Irrespective of subsequent errors made by the council in assessing the noise, no matter how tempting the urge to criticise the resident for buying a flat in this area expecting peace and quiet, ignoring all the arguments about who should do what and when, that’s the actual answer. The creation of a flat directly behind a partition wall adjoining a live music venue should not have passed the planning process”.

“The fault lies not with the music venue, who not only were there already but also objected to it being built, or the resident, who just wants to be able to sleep at night, or even, no really, the developer, who just wanted to make as much money as possible – that’s their job. The fault lies with Manchester City Council. They are the planning authority who permitted it to be built. The council are responsible and they can and should resolve it”.

Referencing Chesney’s comments in court yesterday, Davyd adds: “It is plain … that the resident wishes to sell and be done with it. The council should take that opportunity. Buy the flat. Hand the lease to the venue in recompense for their errors. The flat would make suitable accommodation for touring artists; it certainly cannot be lived in. This can be achieved for less than £500,000. It is the Occam’s Razor solution”.

“For anyone who feels £500,000 is too much”, he goes on, “the loss of the Night & Day would cost the city that much in economic activity every five months. Forever”.

He also then alludes to the new Manchester City Council backed venue complex Factory International – which was recently revealed to be £100 million over budget – and muses: “If you feel £500,000 is too much for the city to spend on protecting a cultural asset, this is the same city that is spending over £100 million of local ratepayers money to create a new cultural asset”

“Manchester City Council made a mistake in permitting this flat to be created”, he concludes. “They can undo that mistake for £500,000. It’s the cheapest way to do it, it actually solves the problem permanently, and it’s the only solution which gives both the resident and the venue a way out. Will the council do that? No idea”.

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