The main issue was the loss of the music venue, which operated from a basement bar, rather than loss of the pub. The performance space included a stage and engineer’s rostrum at one end. It was exclusively used for live music and had a capacity of 120. Performances mainly took place on Friday and Saturday nights, with a focus on amplified hard rock.
The venue had closed in January 2020, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, the inspector found that the July 2020 ministerial statement seeking to prevent loss of theatres, concert halls and live music venues was not contextually relevant. However, he noted that adopted local plan policies aimed to protect and promote smaller venues and attractions as an important part of a diverse tourism and cultural offer, also taking into account NPPF restrictions on unnecessary loss of valued facilities.
The appellants claimed that there were sufficient other facilities for live music across the city, so loss of the appeal property would not be unreasonably detrimental. But the inspector found the evidence submitted unclear as to whether alternative venues could accommodate the specific live performances displaced from the appeal property, given their own performance schedules, musical styles and tastes. This meant it was not clear that the appeal property was surplus to requirements, he held.
The appellants did not claim that the venue was struggling financially when it closed and presented no information on its viability under another operator or indeed on whether there was any interest in taking it over. The inspector found insufficient assurances that loss of the venue could be accepted, given the strong level of policy protection for such facilities. He concluded that community harm arising from loss of the venue outweighed the proposed homes’ social and economic benefits.
Inspector: Darren Hendley; Written representations