Manchester’s Night & Day venue has welcomed the ruling in its legal dispute over the noise abatement order that was issued by the city's council. It says the decision will allow it to continue to operate the club nights that are vital to its financial viability. However, concerns have been raised - including by the Music Venue Trust - that the wording of the ruling will put other nearby venues at risk of being subject to similar action.

The potential issues are a result of decisions judge Margaret McCormack made in order to reach her judgement. MVT CEO Mark Davyd explained, "The judge has decided, and placed on record, that the Northern Quarter is not a cultural area, it is a mixed use area". 

"Consequently", he went on, "this judgement places every music venue, nightclub, restaurant and bar in this area on notice that they will, upon receipt of a noise complaint by any resident, be required to change the nature of their business to accommodate such a complaint. This applies equally to existing, new and prospective residents. As a result of this judgement, it is now open season on Manchester's night-time economy for developers". 

McCormack’s ruling was a compromise, amending rather than cancelling the noise abatement order. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Night & Day said, “This means we can continue with the club nights that N&D and other live music venues are so dependent on. DJ club nights contribute to developing the raw, amazing talent and emerging live music scene that grace our stage, Manchester and beyond".

However, they added that the venue is "disappointed" that the judgement will require it to make adjustments to its club nights "to suit an occupier of what is a defective apartment". 

Manchester City Council issued a noise abatement order against Night & Day back in 2021 following a complaint from a person who had recently moved into an adjacent building. The venue argued that the problem had been caused by bad planning at the council more than 20 years earlier when it allowed the building next to Night & Day to be converted into residential properties. It also said that complying with the order would stop it from hosting club nights at the weekend, which would make its wider business unviable. 

After Night & Day appealed the order, the case dragged its way through the courts, with the two sides running up nearly £200,000 in costs fighting the dispute. In the end, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, McCormack rejected the venue's appeal, but opted to vary the notice, so that Night & Day will have to comply with a set of noise restrictions that were proposed by an expert employed by the venue itself. Complying with that restriction will impact on more than half of its events, the venue said, but will allow it to continue to operate. 

In making her judgement, McCormack said that Manchester's Northern Quarter - although a well known cultural hub - is now a mixed use neighbourhood. In balancing the interests of the neighbouring resident and the venue, she said that the club nights that caused the noise issues did not have 'community value', basically because Night & Day's reputation comes from the gigs that are held earlier in the evening, and other club nights are on offer. 

It's not surprising that decision making has caused concern for the grassroots venue community. Too often cultural businesses turn run down neighbourhoods into desirable locations, prompting developers to build new residential properties. The cultural businesses are then told they can't run the late night operations that often subsidise the rest of their output because of noise issues. 

In theory the agent of change principle, which was added to planning guidelines, aims to stop that happening, at least with new property developments, by putting obligations on the developers of new properties to anticipate and mitigate future noise problems. But McCormack's ruling nevertheless is a cause of concern for venues and other night-time businesses in Manchester. 

Although welcoming the news that Night & Day's proposed noise restrictions had been accepted, Davyd continued, "We have repeatedly warned Manchester City Council there was a significant risk to their pursuit of this case. The final judgement results in exactly that new risk to all nightlife in the Northern Quarter of Manchester”. 

“The message from this case is that the Northern Quarter's days as a cultural hub are now numbered”, he went on. “We therefore call on Manchester City Council to detail what action it intends to take to secure the future of this vital area of the city, which plays home to fourteen grassroots music venues". 

In its response to yesterday's ruling, the council was keen to defend its conduct in this case, insisting it had sought an "amicable resolution" and basically blaming the venue for taking the matter to court. 

But it also added, “We hope that we can all move forward from this unfortunate episode and we wish to work constructively with the venue. Music is a key ingredient of what makes Manchester special. The council not only recognises this but has for many decades supported and encouraged grassroots venues and emerging musical talent. We continue to do so". 

It added, “In response to the pressures facing grassroots music venues across the country and here in the city, the council commissioned a major independent review into the support Manchester’s grassroots music venues need, and how the council and partners can support venues. Its findings will be launched in May and will set out a way to champion Manchester’s independent music scene for the years ahead".

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