CAMPAIGNERS are calling for reform over noise complaints which they claim are putting live music venues under threat.

Promoter Mark Stack is leading a citywide campaign to give venues a level playing field when they deal with complaints from residents.

His petition has already gathered more than 3,800 names and it will be presented to Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday.

Mr Stack said he wanted to “end the insanity” where a resident moving in next door to a long-established music venue can force it to close through making noise complaints to the local authority.

Brighton and Hove City Council has received at least 210 noise complaints regarding pubs in the city in each of the last three years.

In the smaller, but vibrant, music scene of Lewes, the town’s venues received an average of 44 noise complaints each year including 11 complaints in 12 months against The Cinque Ports in Seaford High Street in 2013.

The penalties levied against venues judged to have breached noise abatement orders can be devastating with six Brighton and Hove pubs hit with fines ranging between £1,000 to £3,000 since June 2010.

The issue has become a national talking point with more than 43,000 signatures on a separate petition demanding that residents who move in close to a music venue lose their right to complain about noise.

London mayor Boris Johnson this month launched a task force to try and save music venues in the capital and now campaigners in Brighton want to see their politicians show similar leadership to protect the city’s famed music scene.

Mr Stack said he believed the legislation is being abused with anecdotal tales nationally of unethical developers and even supermarkets moving residents in around venues who then make numerous complaints in an attempt to close the venue to open the possibility of the site’s sale and redevelopment.

He said: “Clearly the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is designed to protect residents from unruly neighbours and extreme noise from industry.

“I can’t believe it was intentionally worded to destroy our music venues.

“We are not seeking to create a noise-makers charter, we just want the council to redress the balance, working together to remove the ability for somebody to move close to an established venue and then have it closed down.

“The local music scene has a vitality that is so important to the city’s economy, tourism and ability to attract investment.”

The petition has received the backing of the local Musicians’ Union, many of the city’s venues including Concorde 2 and Hove MP Mike Weatherley, who worked in the music industry before becoming a politician.

Mr Weatherley MP said: “Protecting live music venues is crucial.

“Brighton and Hove has a wealth of established music venues that contribute a huge amount to our city and it would be a tremendous shame to see any of them threatened.

“I recently raised the importance of live music venues across the country to our economy with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and hope that councillors in Brighton and Hove will protect these important local institutions.”

To sign the petition visit

Rules on volume and complaints

According to the Brighton and Hove Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, noise is defined simply as “unwanted sound”.

Various legislation and guidance exists to manage noise.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, where a noise nuisance exists, or is likely to exist, there is a statutory duty to serve a noise abatement notice on the person responsible, owner and/or occupier.

Under the Noise Act 1996, fixed penalties can be issued to domestic and licensed premises for night-time noise offences .

According to The Licensing Act 2003, preventing “public nuisance” should be considered as part of the licence agreement.

Brighton and Hove City Council advises residents to include the following details when making a noise complaint: Complaint’s name and address and a daytime telephone number – anonymous complaints are not accepted. The address (or site) where the noise is coming from.

The type of noise (such as loud music, barking dog, alarm sounding).

When and for how long the noise occurs.

The way the noise affects the resident (such as keeping the resident awake).

Anything the resident has done to try and deal with the problem (such as speaking to the person making the noise).

Case studies

The Argus:

The Freebutt in Phoenix Place, Brighton, closed down in September 2010 after a long-running dispute between the venue’s owners, Brighton and Hove City Council and one persistent neighbour.

The venue’s management walked away after the council requested tougher sound restrictions in a bid to resolve the issue.

More than four years on, former manager Andy Rossiter has welcomed the campaign.

He said: “The fact that there are now conversations about this is definitely a good thing.

“It’s very unfair that these situations can arise at the moment where somebody can move in and complain when the existing venue hasn’t changed doing the same thing they were doing for the past 20 years.

“It was very frustrating going through what we went through.

“A lot of people don’t understand but noise is quite a complex issue and it is not so easy to find out what the problem is without going into a neighbour’s property.

“In the case of The Freebutt, we were denied the chance to go into their house so we had no way of fixing the problem.

“You could put up some sound proof fake walls but the problem could be as simple as a small gap in the wall you don’t know about.

“We were barking up the wrong tree for about two months in terms of what we thought the issue was.

“We personally felt the council was siding with the resident and not really giving us fair opportunity to fix the problem.

“We needed to keep the venue open to pay for any improvements to the building we were going to do but when we were stopped from doing that the game was up.

“If it was happening now, it would be really good to have some support from the council or the Government advising us what we can do. Having access to people who can help you out would have been very helpful.

“All we could do was hire a really expensive acoustic specialist and when they did tell us what to do, the council lowered the noise limits and effectively shut us down.

“The problem is in Brighton you have a very compact population so pretty much all music venues, except for some on the seafront, are surrounded by residents.”

Mr Rossiter said he has “left the stress behind” of being a venue owner and became a music promoter under the name of Love Thy Neighbour in reference to his persistent adversary.

The Blind Tiger, pictured above, in Grand Parade, Brighton, closed last year with the venue owners pointing to a serial complainer from the flat above as being behind their demise.

The venue had hosted live bands for more than 100 years but closed in May with owners claiming they were effectively handed a “ban on playing music”.

They were served with a nuisance notice from Brighton and Hove City Council after facing a year-long dispute with a resident. The site remains closed to this day although cult brewer Brewdog has expressed interest in moving in.

Music industry's noise opinion

The Argus:

Sally Oakenfold is manager, pictured above, at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, in Middle Street, Brighton, and The Hope and Ruin in Queen’s Road, also Brighton.

She said: “It is a constant battle.

“It is something we are concerned about all the time, it is something we have to monitor constantly, something we have thorough records of the sound levels of. We have to have limiters on our equipment set at levels imposed by the council and we have to make sure that no sound leaks from the venue.

“We have very strict curfew times, sound checks have to take place at specific times.

“If somebody opens the fire doors by accident, then that can trigger a noise complaint and can cause huge problems and potentially we could be closed down.

“We get complaints even when we are not open, residents still want to point the finger at us even though there are lots of noisy businesses in the centre of town, that’s what living in the centre of the city entails.

“At the moment it’s massively in favour of the residents.

“It seems that there are more and more complaints.

“I have lived by venues and pubs in the past and it never would have occurred to me to complain.

“We do care about other people’s welfare very much but it’s only a handful of people that complain but because they complain regularly it causes us a great deal of problems.”

Mat Cook, manager of Cook The Rabbit Events and director of Kemp Town Carnival, said the decision not to run the popular carnival was in part a result of the closure of venues such as The Blind Tiger which had hosted pre-festival fundraisers in the past.

He said: “It’s a real tragedy and travesty with the noise abatement law, and it’s happening right the way across the UK.

“Noise abatement is effectively shutting down venues that help support and fundraise directly for community projects like the Kemp Town Carnival.

“It’s very worrying and very sad.”

Resident's view point

RESIDENTS living next to some of Brighton’s busiest pubs said newcomers should be prepared but defended their right to complain if things get out of hand.

Rachael Glazier, 38, has lived since August in-between The Druids Arms and Caroline of Brunswick, in Ditchling Road.

She said: “We moved in on the understanding that we were moving in next to two pubs and we also live next to two students, so we knew there was going to be noise.

“Actually there was less than we thought. I have a three-year-old and it is totally fine.

“Except for one guy who seems to know all the words to Phantom of the Opera and is there about once a month.

“But that is outside the pub and they cannot force people to move on.

“I honestly think that if you move in next to a pub, you know what it is going to be like. Before you move in you make sure it is OK.

“But I think people should be allowed to complain though if it is out of all proportion – if people are still outside at two or three in the morning.

“The pubs and other venues are part of what makes Brighton so nice and it would really be a shame if they were forced to close.”

One mother who lives close to a city pub said she did not realise the extent of the noise before moving in.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive issue, said: “It has been getting bad again and it has been a bit noisy in the week.

“We cannot sleep – my little boy’s bedroom is right there and he comes in saying it is too noisy.

“Especially if you want to leave your windows or balcony doors open.

“I don’t mind them being outside but as long as it is at a reasonable hour.

“We knew the pub was there but we did not know the noise was going to be that bad, or we would never have moved there in the first place.”

Donna Denyer, 34, lives close to The Greys Pub in Southover Street She said: “I hear them as you would expect but the noise is not really an issue – and I have a four-year-old.

“I do think people should be able to complain though – sometimes if it gets out of hand or really too late then you need somehow to be able to complain.”