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Bristol rock venue 'under threat'

Fleece owner believes flats development will lead to noise complaints and force closure

Iconic Bristol live music venue The Fleece is under threat from closure, says its owner – unless fans can persuade authorities not to allow a building development nearby.

Plans have been submitted for the conversion of an office block into 80 flats, which would mean bedrooms would be located less than 20 metres from the club's stage.

Venue supporters fear that would lead to noise complaints from residents – because previous similar situations have led to the closure of other British rock clubs.

The Blind Tiger Club in Brighton, which had been hosting live performances for 160 years, shut down earlier this week as a result of a noise abatement order following a complaint from one neighbour. Manchester's Night And Day was threatened with closure in January after a similar situation arose. The 200 Club in Newport was shut last year after noise complaints.

Fleece owner Chris Sharp, who's launched an online petition, says: "The venue has thrived for 32 years and one of the key factors in its success has been its location.

"The lack of residents in the surrounding streets has meant we can offer live music seven nights a week, and club nights until 4am on weekends, without disturbing anyone.

"The Fleece has never had any issues with noise complaints. If the office block next door is converted into private flats, we anticipate a deluge of complains as soon as people move in."

An environmental noise investigation has concluded the Fleece isn't the main problem in the area, which could have an effect on Brighton City Council's planning decision. But venue marketing manager Nathan Stone says that conclusion is wrong.

He reports: "We employed another acoustic consultant to analyse the original findings, and we believe they are invalid due to a range of considerations. They didn't look at low frequency noises and their microphones weren't placed to identify noise coming from the venue."

The new analysis includes the summary: "The criteria are not adequate to protect the residential amenity in respect of noise the Fleece. A lower limit would be required, and this should account for bass beats and low frequencies. The measurement position used does not represent the worst affected proposed dwellings. The noise data does not relate to the period with the Fleece operating and is spread over a full day-and-night period."

The second report adds that balconies are planned for the part of the office block overlooking the Fleece, and that "noise levels will be unacceptably high."

Sharp's petition calls on Bristol City Council to deny planning permission for the flats and therefore remove the threat of closure from the Fleece. It's gained nearly 19,000 signatures to date, with a target of 100,000.

Supporters have also filed planning objections on the Bristol Council website.

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