Shouted down in stereo

A PLAN to protect city music venues from being shut down by noise complaints has left just about everyone unhappy.

Some have complained the proposed noise ceiling is too loud for human health and others that it’ll kill Perth’s music scene by locking in a too-quiet limit.

For more than three years the state government has been working on legislation to allow established music venues some immunity to the usual environmental laws that outlaw overly loud noises. 

As the inner city’s residential population grows, the laws are intended to prevent new residents from moving in and then getting pubs and clubs shut down by lodging noise complaints, which has happened to some iconic Sydney and Melbourne venues in the past few years as apartments popped up around them.

Writing the new laws has turned out to be hideously complex, and stretches across several state government departments and local council planning schemes.

Sound proofing

The proposal would require new developments to include enough sound proofing to keep out the tunes, and would allow established music venues in the ‘core’ of Northbridge to emit sounds up to 90dB, about as loud as a power tool. 

About 60 per cent of city venues are already leaking noise well above that limit. 

But even turning them down to 90dB “is still above what would be an acceptable level of noise … from a health perspective” of a resident trying to live nearby, according to Prue Reddingius from Environmental Health WA.

Ms Reddingius was speaking at this week’s Perth council briefing amid a marathon public question time that stretched almost two hours. 

The council has to decide whether it will support the state government’s laws and do its part by implementing rules requiring buildings to have noise proofing, but they’re caught between 50 public submissions with a dozen different viewpoints.

The Australian Hotels Association wants a higher 95dB limit for established venues. Various submissions from residents have called for limits anywhere from 70dB to 50dB, the level of an average conversation. Property developers reckon requiring noise proofing will make new builds impossibly expensive. 

After two hours of hearing from the public and another hour’s discussion untangling the ramifications of the policy, councillors retired and will have to vote on whether to approve their part of the laws at their December 13 meeting.

by DAVID BELL

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