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Battle to save Manchester’s Night & Day back in court this week

By | Published on Monday 20 March 2023

Night & Day

The battle to save Manchester venue Night & Day will return to court this week after attempts to negotiate a settlement with the city’s council seemingly failed.

Ahead of that hearing, the venue’s owner Jennifer Smithson has again criticised the council, blaming past failings by city officials for causing the current problems, and dubbing the local authority’s current position “incomprehensible”.

Manchester City Council served a noise abatement order against Night & Day in November 2021 following a noise complaint from one of the venue’s neighbours, a person who moved into a residential property adjacent to the venue during the COVID lockdowns.

Complying with the order would force Night & Day to change its late night operations which would in turn make the venue’s business unviable.

Critics of the council point out that the venue had been in operation for decades before the complainant moved into the adjacent property. And, indeed, it was venues like Night & Day that helped turn a run down part of Manchester into a vibrant cultural hub where people want to live.

Not only that, but the noise issues today could have been avoided two decades ago if Manchester City Council had properly enforced its own planning conditions when the building in which the affected flat is based was redeveloped.

All of this was argued out in the magistrate’s court in Manchester last November as Smithson formally appealed the noise abatement order. That court hearing was meant to resume in January, however the dispute was paused to allow talks between the venue and the council. But those talks seemingly failed to result in any kind of resolution, meaning the matter will return to court tomorrow.

Ahead of that hearing, Smithson said in a statement: “We just want to get on with our lives and our business, and keep Night & Day alive for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone in Manchester and beyond”.

Noting how past failings by Manchester City Council, when the neighbouring property was being redeveloped, caused the current problem, she went on: “Consideration of noise was one of the planning conditions specified by MCC planning department with the developer and is held on public record at MCC planning portal”.

“An initial acoustic report recommended that an additional second report be conducted that addressed any noise ingress from the venue into the flat”, she added.

“This report was never commissioned and the development was signed off. Within the initial acoustic report the complainant’s flat in particular was identified as being at risk from noise ingress – before the flats were even built”.

It was confirmed during last year’s court hearing that the complainant had now moved out of their flat. Noting that, Smithson continued: “To make matters even more incomprehensible, since the abatement notice was issued and the complainant has moved out of their flat, there have been no further noise complaints”.

Concluding, Smithson stated: “It’s simply unacceptable for MCC to continue the premise that the responsibility for this planning mistake lies with the developer or builder”.

Giving its side, a council spokesperson is quoted by the Manchester Evening News as saying: “The council has sought throughout this process, for more than a year, to reach an amicable solution with Night & Day which enables them to remain commercially viable while recognising the needs of residents and our legal obligations”.

“We remain absolutely committed to this goal but with a court hearing pending it would not be appropriate for us to comment further on this specific case”, they added. “The city’s music venues are an important part of the fabric of the city, playing a vital role in the night-time economy and in creating opportunities for new artists”.

Manchester had a considerable presence at last week’s South By South West in Austin, Texas, partly to launch the new Beyond The Music conference that will take place in the city later this year, but also to big up Greater Manchester’s music credentials.

Mayor Andy Burnham popped up on stage a few times – including to introduce a keynote with Manchester band New Order – stressing that his city is a genuine music city.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority that Burnham heads up doesn’t have any direct control over the licensing decisions of Manchester City Council, and the mayor’s music and night-time economy advisors have both spoken out in support of Night & Day.

However, if the noise abatement order stays in place and Night & Day is forced to close, that’s going to be quite the PR challenge for those bigging up Manchester’s music city credentials, given the crucial part the venue played in the cultural revival of the city’s Northern Quarter, and its continued role as a key grassroots music venue to this day.