Agenda item

The Night Time Economy: Use of Outside PA Systems

Interviews with Martyn Jeynes, Environmental Enforcement Manager, and Paul Alcock, Chairman of the Night Time Economy Forum.


The Chairman invited Paul Alcock, Chairman of the Night Time Economy Forum, and Martyn Jeynes, Environmental Enforcement Manager, to speak on this item.


Mr Alcock informed the committee of the structure and function of the Night Time Economy Forum. Mr Alcock explained that the forum had representation from all stakeholders in the night time economy including bar and nightclub owners, the police, the urban blue bus, taxi firms and Maidstone Borough Council. The forum met every six weeks and discussed any emerging problems that needed to be addressed.


Mr Alcock highlighted one subject that was of particular concern to the forum- the use of PA systems outside the entrance of Night Time Economy venues. It was explained that the music played outside the front of bars and clubs, or music that can be heard from outside the front door of bars and clubs, acted as a ‘shop window’ for these establishments to give an idea of their offer to customers.


However one establishment in particular had an enforcement notice served on them as complaints had been received about the sound being played from a PA system at the front of the establishment. Whilst the forum accepted that this was an individual enforcement case that was a matter between the owner of the bar and the Council, the forum was worried that it may lead to further enforcement action against other premises in the future. This was a particular issue due to a number of new builds, and conversions, catering for residential use in the town centre. This was a concern to the forum as the night time economy was worth around £45 million per year to the Maidstone economy.


Mr Jeynes was asked for his comments on the points that Mr Alcock raised. Mr Jeynes made the following comments:

·  If a noise complaint was made, the council had a statutory duty to investigate. If the noise was found to be a nuisance the council had a duty to serve an enforcement notice.

·  Each complaint that received was judged on its own merits and there was no overall council policy on these matters;

·  Whilst there was protection for individuals experiencing noise nuisance, there was little protection for long established bars and clubs if a new housing development, or an existing building converted to residential use, resulted in noise complaints from its new residents;

·  It was worth noting that only two enforcement notices for the type of noise complaint mentioned by Mr Alcock had been served in the 11 years Mr Jeynes had worked at Maidstone Borough Council;

·  The low number of enforcement notices served was largely due to the excellent working relationship between the Environmental Enforcement Department and night time economy businesses; and

·  The Environmental Enforcement department had launched a scheme to encourage premises to self-regulate their noise levels, called Community Aware Responsible Establishment Scheme (CARES), with the aim of preventing noise complaints.


The Chairman thanked Mr Jeynes and Mr Alcock for their presentations.


The Committee asked Mr Jeynes whether setting decibel limits for noise would be helpful. Mr Jeynes responded that this would not be helpful as even if a decibel limit was set a new resident may move in to the area and make a complaint. This complaint would have to be investigated, as the council had a statutory responsibility to investigate. In this case, if the noise source was found to be a nuisance, noise nuisance legislation would override the decibel limits set by the license.


Members requested examples of how other local authorities approached noise management for their night time economy. Mr Jeynes answered that there were other local authorities that required some of their premises to take noise abatement measures, for example building second skins around clubs and bars to insulate from noise. However Mr Jeynes felt this was not necessary in Maidstone as there was a good working relationship between businesses and the Environmental Enforcement team. Because of this positive relationship, generally the team only had to recommend measures, rather than require them, and these tended to be adhered to by business owners.


In answer to a question regarding whether there was 24 hour cover for noise monitoring, Mr Jeynes answered that this was not the case and he did not feel that this was necessary. Any noise nuisance that was identified would be dealt with retrospectively, in order to prevent another occurrence. An agreement was in place that for any complaints that were followed up by the Police, the team would take witness statements from the police officers that attended the incident. Members of the Environmental Enforcement team would always make themselves available at anti-social hours if there was a regular disturbance that needed investigating.


RESOLVED: To recommend that:


1)  The Head of Planning, Transport and Development develop policies to ensure that new residential buildings, and conversions, in the town centre have appropriate acoustic protection to prevent noise complaints about the night time economy;

2)  The Head of Economic and Commercial Development considers the interaction between the night time economy and town centre residents during the town centre visioning process;

3)  The Head of Environment and Public Realm reviews the process for reporting major noise disturbances that happen out of hours; and

4)  The Head of Environment and Public Realm circulates a guidance note to members regarding procedures for reporting major noise disturbances.

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