Edinburgh noise rules rethink welcomed by music venues

Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers have been outspoken critics of the Capital's live music restrictions. Picture: John Devlin

Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers have been outspoken critics of the Capital's live music restrictions. Picture: John Devlin

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A MAJOR overhaul of Edinburgh’s noise rules has been put out for consultation – potentially bringing an end to a controversial rule that sees venues forced to make live music “inaudible” to neighbouring homes.

Instead, proposed changes would compel council officers to prove live music is causing a “nuisance” to residents before a complaint is pursued.

Leading figures in the city’s music scene – including award-winning hip-hop trio Young Fathers – have previously blasted Edinburgh’s “draconian” noise rules, which oblige officials to launch an investigation if just one person complains that music can be heard.

Venue bosses hope the radical shake-up will revitalise the Capital’s gig circuit and boost its cultural output.

SEE ALSO: Young Fathers say council choking city music scene

Nick Stewart, manager of well-known Cowgate nightclub Sneaky Pete’s, has been heavily involved in council talks aimed at amending existing policy. He said: “These proposals would make an operational difference to venues. Businesses have to be able to plan years into the future, and altering the current restriction would remove the fear of interruption that could come from a new neighbour complaining about noise and potentially jeopardising the venue’s ability to operate.

“From a venue operator’s point of view, you’d have to ask, ‘Who would take over my business in the future when it’s this hard to keep a licence, not when I’m running my business badly, but when I’m running it well by putting on great music to enthusiastic crowds?’. A change is sorely needed.”

Last year, we revealed almost half of Edinburgh’s musicians claimed to have suffered problems over noise restrictions in the Capital’s venues in the space of a year.

Research by Edinburgh University found that 42 per cent of venues had also run into trouble over the course of 12 months, despite the city’s music scene pumping around £40 million into the economy.

Council bosses said the Capital’s new noise rules could use the eight “key issues” contained within the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 to decide what constitutes a public nuisance – impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance and avoidability.

Meanwhile, other plans being considered would see developers foot the bill for soundproofing if they chose to build residential homes near venues.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, vice-convenor for culture, said: “I think what we are trying to do is strike a fair balance between the needs of residents and the needs of the music industry in Edinburgh.”

She said the changes would allow for a “more nuanced and sophisticated” application of council policy.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk