IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BASS

BASS players and subwoofers are proving to be the mythical brown note in plans to protect music venues from whingeing neighbours.

The McGowan government is looking to tighten up laws in entertainment precincts to prevent people who move in from lodging noise complaints against pre-existing pubs and clubs, but how to deal with a growly Gene Simmons riff has caused a split between Perth council’s planners and the state’s noise regulator.

The problem is that the deeper you go, the more a sound can blast its way through soundproofing.

The Department of Water and Environment Regulation found soundproofing is “impractical and cost prohibitive” if bass emissions exceed 79dB (imagine a really deep vacuum cleaner).

The department says a 79dB level would see developers paying an extra 8 per cent to construct apartments with enough soundproofing to keep internal noise at a sleepable 47dB (think Simon & Garfunkel quietly arguing off mic).  

But Perth council’s planners reckon the limit’s too quiet and want a “core” area of Northbridge where all venues, new or old, would be allowed to emit 95dB. In the state government’s proposed “frame” area surrounding that core, the council says venues could stick to the mousey 79dB.

If existing venues voluntarily stuck to those limits they’d be given blanket protection from noise complaints.

They looked at three bass limit scenarios based on what existing businesses were pumping out, and reckoned the lowest they could go while balancing competing needs was 85dB – still above the department’s recommendation.

The state’s “agent of change” rules could face other challenges as well, with venues over east that supposedly have the same protections being tangled up in long and expensive lawsuits with clever developers.

Music Victoria looked into four cases and found the established venues ended up paying between $10,000 and $200,000 dealing with the lawsuits.

Natural attrition also undermines the intent of the rules; rather than venues coming and going, they can only go and go, according to a NSW review.

When the issue came before Perth’s commissioners on October 22, they deferred the item, concerned the proposal could still harm existing businesses.

Cmmr Len Kosova wanted to know why the core zone didn’t include the Perth Cultural Precinct and why some existing prominent venues had been shunted to the quieter frame area. 

The Court Hotel and William Street’s Alabama Song bar are in the hushed frame area, while Ellington Jazz Club and Badlands are outside it altogether. 

by DAVID BELL

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