Edinburgh is the only licensing board with the condition prohibiting amplified music from being audible in residential apartments attached to licences. It introduced this condition in response to the special character of the city.
The tenements that make up much of the inner core of the city mean that people live cheek by jowl with commercial uses. The unusual topography of the city means noise can travel in unexpected ways and this has traditionally been dealt with by the principle of polluter solves the problem. The current condition only applies to amplified noise – it doesn’t cover people talking nor does it cover live music played without amplification.
The amended condition proposes changing from the current situation, whereby if someone can hear amplified music in their home they can complain to the licensing enforcement officers who can investigate. The test is not subjective – either you can hear the music or you can’t. Mediation is currently offered and in my experience, actions such as keeping fire doors closed to prevent sound escaping can provide a solution. It is only when no solutions are available or these are breached that the board gets involved.
The change proposed would mean that action would only be taken where any noise heard within someone’s home was shown to be a “nuisance” – this is a subjective test, both the police and council’s environmental officers are concerned that this makes enforcement more difficult.
On Monday the convener of the licensing board made it clear that any amendments to the proposed change would require further consultation and this was not encouraged.
The convenor of culture and sport, Richard Lewis, speaks of the two years this has been in discussion – two years in which to work with residents and discuss concerns. Two years in which no changes to the original amendment have been brought forward to find a mutually acceptable way forward.
Every community council which represents areas where this is likely to be a problem is opposed to the change. Fortunately the board saw sense and called for a hearing so the views of the industry and residents likely to be affected can be heard.
Tenement living is good for the city, good for the environment and should be good for the residents – if we continually chip away at the protections for residents we will end up with a sterile city – only for visitors, without a thriving residential population. We need to recognise that you cannot have a 24-hour party city and expect people to live in the midst of the party.
Proper engagement may find a solution – proposing changes in the interests of the industry and not properly engaging with the community will only lead to further stalemate.
Joanna Mowat is Conservative councillor for City Centre Ward