Mar 22, 2023 3 min read

Night & Day noise complaint trial adjourned in order to carry out further sound level tests

"Court time is precious" says frustrated judge in Night & Day case after five hours of discussion on acceptable noise levels fail to reach consensus. The judge has now ordered six days of new testing over three consecutive weekends.

The future of Manchester music venue Night & Day remains in the balance after a court hearing yesterday was adjourned early. The judge said that the two sides were “going around in circles” and ordered that more testing on noise levels at the venue be carried out.

Night & Day wants a noise abatement order issued against it by Manchester City Council to be cancelled. Although yesterday’s hearing mainly centred on whether an agreement could be reached with the council on acceptable night-time noise levels in the venue.

There were disagreements about what those levels should be, what further noise level tests should be carried out, and who should do those tests. Night & Day arrived in court with proposals for a drop in noise levels at the venue to 100 decibels, but the council is pushing for 95.5db. Reps for Night & Day also offered to cut bass levels from 114db to 110db.

After five hours of discussion reached no consensus, a visibly frustrated district judge Margaret McCormack said, according to Manchester Evening News: “I am going to adjourn. I am not an engineer and I need to have something in front of me so I can read it, and ask any relevant questions. I need to know before we get to the noise abatement notice”.

“Court time is precious, I want as much agreed as we can”, she went on. “We will be going round in circles. Can we please, for the good of the case, wherever it goes to, get some sort of consensus on testing. If it’s a figure, then that’s what it is”.

Manchester City Council served its noise abatement order against Night & Day in November 2021 following a complaint from one of the venue’s neighbours, a person who moved into a residential property adjacent to the venue during the COVID lockdowns.

Complying with the order would force Night & Day to change its late night operations which could in turn make the venue’s business unviable.

Critics of the council point out that the venue had been in operation for decades before the complainant moved into the adjacent property. And, indeed, it was venues like Night & Day that helped turn a run down part of Manchester into a vibrant cultural hub where people want to live.

Not only that, but the noise issues today could have been avoided two decades ago if Manchester City Council had properly enforced its own planning conditions when the building in which the affected flat is based was redeveloped.

Speaking in court yesterday, Night & Day’s lawyer argued that further noise level testing was unnecessary and that at this stage they would just be testing differences in sound levels that are entirely subjective.

“We got to the point [with testing where] we know what [the noise level] would be in the flat, [so] what are we measuring for? We have those figures already. The council officers would just be checking that we have the same number”.

“We do not need to do that, we can just impose the same limits”, she went on. “Within this range of 99.5 to 100 dB. We have a group of people standing in the flat saying ‘96 dB… that’s okay’ and then it goes to ‘98 dB… do you think that’s alright?’ That’s not scientific, it’s a range of subjective opinions … The figures we are now offering, the 100 and 110, it’s not plucked from thin air”.

Representing the council, Leo Charalambides countered: “The range [in the existing test data] is 95.5 to 101 dB, but there is a dispute over the bass frequency that’s based on recordings taken in the venue above the mixing desk”.

“What we are suggesting is that for the court to determine if there is a nuisance and if there is an impact. The court needs to know what the impact of 99.5 to 101 dB is. What we would like to see is [both sides can] agree a methodology and agree what the impact of 99.5 to 101 dB is”.

“What we propose is that the court has a report and where it cannot be agreed, it’s set out [in court]”, he went on. “That provides a basis to agree a figure or the court to have clarity around the impacts. We both understand something different”.

“To do that without the methodology would be a potential for grave error. Because we do have an established principle, [in that] we are willing to amend the noise abatement notice, the duty is on us to investigate”.

Yeah, I see why judge McCormack found it all rather confusing. She ordered six days of new testing to be carried out on consecutive Fridays and Saturdays, with recording equipment placed in both Night & Day and the neighbouring flat.

Once that has been done, it will take five weeks to analyse and write up the results, which will be followed by a further three day trial.

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