Campaigners trying to change Edinburgh’s controversial restrictions on live music events have been dealt a blow after a crucial decision was delayed to give opponents the chance to have more of a say.
Promoters, venue managers and bands say the city’s rule that music must be “inaudible” in neighbouring properties makes Edinburgh one of the hardest cities in the world to stage events in.
But councillors have put off a change to a current curb on noise levels following concerns from the police and community groups that it would lead to a surge in complaints. Instead, they want to try to build a “consensus” on the issue.
The city’s licensing board will now stage a formal inquiry into the change - despite all but 25 of the 526 people responses to an official consultation backing the relaxation.
The possible change, which would allow action to be taken over amplified music causing an “audible nuisance” rather than simply being heard, has divided also council officers - despite two years of talks with music industry representatives and the wider cultural sector.
Cultural staff are strongly in favour of the move to help “nurture a flourishing live music scene.” But officials responsible for monitoring noise levels warned the change would “reduce protection” for residents.
The proposed change was suggested by a taskforce set up by the council two years ago to address long-standing complaints about the impact of the rules.
Almost half of Edinburgh’s musicians say they suffered problems as a result of the city’s stance, according to Edinburgh University research published last year, which found that the city’s live music events were worth around £40 million a year to the economy.
Tory councillor Jeremy Balfour, who argued for a delay, said: “This change will affect a number of communities across the city, including Morningside, the city centre and Leith.
“They need to have their say, along with the music groups, so can get an absolute understanding of the effect this change will have. Both sides will be able to put their case.”
Green councillor Chas Booth, who also backed putting off a decision, said: “This isn’t necessarily about carrying more consultation, it’s really about hearing in more detail from those who have responded to see exactly what is behind their submission.
“I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the proposal. I’ve been in touch with musicians and venues. It’s clear that something must change. “But I’d be really keen to form a consensus so we have community councils on board. It’s essential they are around the table.”
A statement from the Music Is Audible Working Group, which includes promoters, venue owners and musicians, said: “While we’re disappointed the board has delayed a decision, we look forward to engaging with all stakeholders in Edinburgh’s cultural life at the forthcoming hearing.”