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Noise And Fresh Air Win, Developers Lose, As Birmingham Planning Battle Rumbles To A Conclusion


More than three years after it began, one of the longest running disputes in Birmingham property is nearing a conclusion. The likely result, after a great deal of sound and fury, is that fresh air and noisy nightclubs win, and developers lose.

A dispute between the Gooch Estate, which wants to build 116 apartments at Kent Street, Birmingham, and Birmingham's venerable gay nightclub The Nightingale, began in December 2018.

The council wants Gooch Estate and its partner, Prosperity Developments, to come to an “agent of change” agreement with the Nightingale to protect the club from complaints about noise that might arise from new residents. It would require long-term guarantees to protect the late-night economy venue and some work to make it soundproof.

However, the Gooch Estate now prefers to seal the double glazed windows on 32% of the apartments, most fully and some partially. This follows an on-off romance with the Nightingale that saw talks start in August 2019, with the Nightingale saying nothing on offer was likely to work.

By January 2022 an agreement was looking ever less likely. Gooch Estate said it was “no longer willing to enter into an agent of change agreement to secure the noise mitigation works at the Nightingale. Instead [we] are proposing sealing all windows on the Lower Essex Street elevation facing the Nightingale club.”

“The main issue is therefore whether the proposal would lead to unreasonable living conditions for its future residents that would, in turn, have a harmful effect on the operation of the adjacent existing night club,” an official report noted.

Birmingham City Council’s planning committee will decide the issue on 17 March, and officials are recommending they turn down the Gooch Estate application.

Council officials said the sealed windows wouldn’t work anyway — “[The] approach being proposed significantly underestimates bass noise intrusion” — and risked turning apartments into “acoustic prisons.”

Residents could also get very hot. Council officials warned that the developers’ plans hadn’t been updated to create “a suitable internal thermal environment” and referred to the risk of overheating if there wasn’t sufficient ventilation.

City planning officers concluded the sealed window plan meant “significant and demonstrable harm to the poor living environment for a significant number of prospective residents and potential impact on the Nightingale nightclub, which could ultimately force it to close”.

Councillors will make a final decision next week. Unless, of course, there is a further noisy appeal.