A planning condition will prevent any future residents in a housing development adjacent to The Stables in Milton Keynes from submitting private nuisance complaints about the noise.

Teddy Thompson on stage at The Stables
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The Stables

Milton Keynes music venue The Stables has secured legal protection against potentially costly noise complaints thanks to a planning decision that concludes a long-running dispute with a property developer.

Milton Keynes councillors have placed a condition on an application from Abbey Homes to build 134 homes next to the venue, meaning the company will be required to sign a Deed of Easement in order to continue with the project.

This will give The Stables – which hosts over 400 concerts each year – the legal right to continue making noise at existing levels, and ensure that any future residents of the development “are legally bound by this right”.

The council’s Development Control Committee said that although Abbey Homes should be commended for implementing noise control measures, the venue requires additional protection from the “significant risk” that a future resident could make a private nuisance complaint, which could “ultimately lead to the venue having to curb its activities”.

Potential closures

Noise complaints are becoming an increasingly urgent issue for the music sector, with venues across the UK – from Bristol to Cardiff – facing the potential of closure. The Government last year agreed to the ‘agent of change’ principle in planning law, which means that the first actor to set up in an area – whether developer or venue – is protected from the costs of complying with expensive noise reduction measures.  

The deed does not protect the Stables against statutory noise nuisance complaints – noise that injures health or unreasonably interferes with the use or enjoyment of a home – but the venue says it “has always sought to avoid committing a statutory nuisance in any event”.

The legal work for the Stables was carried out by Tim Taylor of Foot Anstey, who secured similar legal decisions for London venues The Ministry of Sound and The George Tavern, with support from the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

Protection

Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, stressed the Deed of Easement would have “no material impact on the planned development” but would provide “real protection to the venue”.

“Everything that is happening in this field of additional protection for music venues is equally protection for future residents,” he said. “The result of this Deed of Easement is that future residents will have a right, forcible in law, to know about any inconvenience they might experience by being closely situated near to a music venue. We feel that all residents have the right to know what they are moving towards, and we applaud Milton Keynes Council for making this decision.”

He added his hope that the developer would now move ahead with the development which is “suitable for the location, creating great new homes for people to live in while protecting existing culture that exists in that location”. 

“This is a great way to balance our towns and cities and we hope to see many more local authorities responding the NPPF amendments with common sense measures like this,” he said.

The Stables Chief Executive and Artistic Director Monica Ferguson added thanks to organisations across the UK, particularly MVT, which had lobbied on its behalf. “This marks a real turning point for us in our campaign to secure the future of The Stables as we head towards our 50th anniversary in 2020. We are particularly grateful for the support of the public, artists, staff and volunteers who have campaigned to safeguard the venue’s future.”

UK Music Deputy CEO Tom Kiehl told AP it was pleased to see a solution to The Stables’ long-running dispute. “We have long been concerned about the negative impact of the planning system on music venues which are the lifeblood of the UK music industry, and have fought hard to achieve ‘agent of change’-based solutions in law,” he said. 

“Deeds of Easement should be considered in more circumstances in order to protect music venues from closure and ensure much needed residential accommodation can co-exist with cultural establishments.”

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