Fleece boss hopes venue is saved

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The owner of Bristol rock venue The Fleece believes its future has been secured after local authorities enforced strict rules on a nearby housing development.

The club has been running for 32 years, but when plans were submitted to turn an office block into 80 flats, it was feared complaints from tenants would lead to its closure.

Current noise laws in England and Wales mean that just one submission from an unhappy resident can lead to a venue’s license being revoked.

Fleece owner Chris Sharp was unsatisfied with developer’s report that said noise from his establishment wouldn’t cause problems, and commissioned his own which suggested it would, unless more money was spent on soundproofing during the building conversion.

The developers threatened to proceed without doing the additional work – but last night Bristol City Council branded their position as a “bullying” strategy and enforced a set of restrictions. They include permanently sealing windows that face The Fleece, and including mechanical ventilation instead.

In addition, developers won’t be allowed to let anyone move in until they’ve ensured noise from The Fleece doesn’t affect living standards in the building.

Sharp says: “This is a really positive day for our Save The Fleece campaign. We’re delighted the city council applied conditions to the approval notice, and we’re satisfied the measures will considerably reduce the likelihood of noise complaints.”

Thanking the 41,500 people who signed his online petition, Sharp adds: “Our fight is far from over as the developer still has the right to appeal – but the future of the venue is definitely looking brighter.”

He believes the ruling could act as a test case for other venues who’ve been threatened with closure. “Venues and theatres find themselves in a similar position to The Fleece as a result of last year’s relaxation of the planning laws,” he notes.

Earlier this year the Blind Tiger Club in Brighton was closed after one neighbour objected to noise, while the 200 Club in Newport shut last year in similar circumstances. Guildford community pub The Boileroom is currently fighting a complaint from two people, while any other venues have reported facing issues for the same reasons. A pressure group is currently fighting for a change in the noise laws.