Liverpool’s 24 Kitchen Street dealt major blow in battle with developers – a Getintothis reflection

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Installation

Installation at 24 Kitchen Street – Threshold

As developers are given the green light, another of Liverpool’s key cultural hubs faces an uncertain future, Getintothis’ Jon Davies reflects and says now is the time to fight back.

In what seemed like a foregone conclusion, the Iliad Group has been granted permission to build residential property adjacent to 24 Kitchen Street.

There were a number of options on the table, some more feasible than others, but the most disappointing showing came from the present planning committee who voted eight to one on giving the new apartments the go ahead in what seemed to be a rushed agreement in collusion with the private developers.

Liverpool City Council’s Planning Development Manager  Peter Jones, who was representing the council’s interim head of planning, helped sell a narrative of the venue’s activities yet failed to discuss potential shortcomings of Iliad’s permission proposal. The committee heard that although 24 Kitchen Street has a license for a rooftop garden, they are appealing the conditions of it, and that noise complaints would be likely as the council has had other complaints as recently as October from other nearby residencies.

Iliad’s acoustic assessment was based on a false premise of venues suddenly going silent after 2am, where clearly the case would be that the venue complies with its sound insulation rules, but the outgoing traffic after an event is an inevitable noise contributor. With all Labour councillors on the voting panel passing permission, the close relationship between council and property developers who have had their way with the city for years is again directly affecting the music scene.

This isn’t the end of 24 Kitchen Street, far from it. The fight starts here, and the Liverpool music scene needs to organise itself quickly and look at the options presented to us.

The decision that 24 Kitchen Street made to go public with the battle against the passing of the permission seemed to have gone quickly, but the months of discussion had reached an impasse between the two parties.

24 Kitchen Street under threat – Liverpool’s rejection of creative space

So here’s what we should do:

Join ‘Save 24 Kitchen Street’ on Facebook. The fight will be ongoing, and will continue to change as further news develops. Through a collective gathering of information the music scene can frame the argument and concentrate the pressure.

Keep up pressure online. The social media groundswell for protecting 24 Kitchen Street has been the main driving force behind raising this issue, with several local and international culture magazines interested in calling out the gentrification of The Baltic Triangle. So far it has forced councillors into making a stand, from the Green’s Metro Mayor candidate Tom Crone objecting at the committee today, to Steve Munby and Hetty Wood (both Labour) suggesting the Section 106 fund to pay for the private developer’s sound insulation.

Write to your MPs and Councillors. So far, very few political leaders have taken on this issue, with only Councillors Crone, Richard Kemp and Helen Thompson making any sort of objection at today’s hearing. The truth is that many political leaders rarely see the positive impact of nightclub culture beyond the bar revenues.

The Liverpool Music Scene should get its act together. 24 Kitchen Street is predominantly a nightclub, but has been host to gigs, exhibitions, workshops, vogue nights and migrant benefit events, to name a few. It provides a unique service to the ecology of Liverpool’s culture, and though the city is still spoiled for venues and bars, the case for 24 Kitchen Street’s progressive and social impact cannot be understated.

Everyone involved, from promoter to musician, manager to journalist, should ask themselves what would happen if Liverpool didn’t have any liminal and creatively flexible venues. No Kazimiers, no Kitchen Streets, no Mello Mellos; would we just be another identikit city? Is the corporate music venue stationed out of the city centre the only thing we have to offer? From those who make Liverpool the city it is, we must embrace that this isn’t just the winds of change but that the winds of change are threatening the existence of marginal cultures.

What’s most frustrating, though, is that 24 Kitchen Street is a thriving, diverse and financially profitable small enterprise run by individuals who place community in the centre of their endeavours. To see Liverpool City Council give carte blanche, with no amendments to the permissions, to private developers while accusing 24 Kitchen Street of not abiding by their own curfew rules, by flagging up unsubstantiated noise complaints and placing all the onus on the venue to bend over backwards for the development clearly shows the amount of contempt the council has for organic cultural autonomy.

There’s only so much of playing ball with the existing powers that can be tolerated before realising that we, as a community have a fight on our hands.

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  1. This stand-off and the subsequent planning decision are indicative of a mind-set among Liverpool’s planners and developers that is likely to undermine the very characteristics and opportunities that makes Liverpool attractive. The contribution of the arts sector to the revival of Liverpool’s fortunes cannot be underestimated and that contribution has been considerable in terms of personal sacrifice for many artists and creators.
    If we cast our eyes southward to London, and particularly Shoreditch, we can see the consequences of the developers and well-heeled moving into an area renown for the creative arts. Shoreditch has all the hallmarks of becoming a hollowed out shell of its former self as the creative communities are forced out by rent increases that suggest almost hyperinflation, and an intolerance for the realities of the creative sector by those who claim to desire to live among it.

    The developers for their part have short-term interests in pursuit of profits to service their debts and to accrue capital to facilitate further developments. There is nothing wrong in it per se, but it does not augur well for a sustainable and healthy community.

    Professional town planners far too frequently enjoy the creative communities at arms-length, such in the Guardian arts pages. The realities of dealing with a complex and chaotic sector, that too frequently exists on the fringes and operates in an environment far removed from the planning office environment, is challenging and demanding. Nevertheless it is out of that chaos that comes the very creativity that planners rely upon to transform failed towns into aspiring communities that have exciting atmospheres; that in turn draw in the developers and the future wealth creators. Remove the chaos through marginalisation and exclusion via ill-considered planning decisions, and potential dramatic cities decline into little more than pastiches of Milton Keynes or other sterile conurbations.

    The phrase “In Place of Strife” should be adopted by Liverpool council and impressed upon developers and planning officers. Ending strife between the creative communities, developers and town planners can be achieved by each seeking to understand the other and appreciating the contribution that each makes, and how by seeking to collaborate the sum of the parts can be greater the value of the individual parts for the benefit of all.

    But it takes vision and determination to achieve this. This vision should come from the leadership of Liverpool city council as it has been elected to provide such vision and leadership. If there is division between the creative communities, the developers and planners, then it is the role of the city council to bridge this division and create an environment where constructive collaboration occurs. If as is alleged, individual council officers have made allegations that are false and used these to inform decisions, then the council and the city are in trouble. Not from legal action for defamation, but from the consequences of a bad decision.

    Humility is another characteristic often missing in these exchanges across the country. Council staff and developer employers look at their investment in pure currency terms, and too frequently imagine their contribution to be so much more than that of the individual artist. They overlook that to create the vibrant creative environment they claim to value it took an enormous proportion of individual resources in terms of money, time and effort. In most cases the risks were overwhelming and the numbers of failures very high indeed. Yet these artists were prepared to make the sacrifice. It therefore behoves the developers and the planners to approach the creative sector with a significant degree of humility and respect as they would never have taken such an enormous personal risk.

    Now is also a time of opportunity. The London-based creative sector is starting to look for new homes. They are being priced out of the East End, and have discovered that most of the Southeast in unaffordable. Even grey centres of mediocrity like Croydon are looking attractive and just affordable. If Liverpool’s planners, developers and creative sector could forge a new mutually sustaining relationship where the creative sector is valued and fostered, rather than just exploited, then it could easily become the home for the new generation of artists and a cultural centre without equal in UK. There should be plenty of space in Liverpool for the incoming professionals, the wealthy, the ordinary working class, the somewhere in-betweens and the creative communities. Each is important and essential for a living sustainable community. To value one above the others is to choose a path that leads to sterility and eventually decline.

    There is surely still time to review this decision, and the direction and the vision, and to commit everyone to creating a vibrant exciting and creative city.

  2. Get your facts right before you go on pontificating about Iliad’s acoustic assessment – it’s not flawed at all.

    The FACTUAL position regarding the night club’s opening hours is set down in planning condition no 6 attached to the club’s planning permission ref: 16F/1889 – do take a look and you and your readers will see the night club only has planning permission to open until 2am!! The fact that it chooses to open until 4am is irrelevant when the Council’s Planning Committee made its decision yesterday.

    The roof garden only has consent to be used until 10pm!

    The night club is also controlled by other planning conditions, including no amplified music audible on the roof garden at any times.

    So before printing incorrect information regarding the Iliad development check your own facts.

    • The acoustic report commissioned by Iliad is robust, the information contained therein is in line with the current industry standards (and it’s also very well set out). The author clearly wants the development to proceed but a balanced factual report has been published.

      There are two sections of AEC REPORT: P3253/R1/PJK which I include below that are worthy of further consideration:

      Section 5.15 “Windows can be openable providing that they are effectively acoustically sealed when closed and it is important that any frames and seals do not downgrade the sound insulation performance of the glazing.”

      – All seals, in particular those which are frequently moved deteriorate over time, this deterioration will reduce the effectiveness of the soundproofing and expose the night club to a potential breech of condition at a future day. This seems somewhat unjust when Section is considered.

      Section 5.16 “The above glazing and ventilation strategies are different from LCC’s standard requirement and would, therefore, need to be agreed with the Local Authority in advance.”

      – The Liverpool City Council’s standard requirement for a development such as this includes Mechanical Ventilation with a sealed facade. Typically we would expect Continuous Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery and a sealed facade. This reduces uncontrolled ventilation het loss, improves indoor air quality, and significantly reduces outside noise pollution – which in this area of Liverpool ranges from cars to seagulls and even the occasional boat horn – not just clubs.

      If the Local Authority Planning Department grant dispensation for Iliad to build to an inferior specification and that specification impacts local businesses, is it not fair that those local businesses are compensated?

      By going against including Liverpool City Council’s standard requirement Iliad will force these companies to add otherwise unnecessary soundproofing to their buildings. Such works will be classified as an upgrade to a retained thermal element and and fall under Part L2B of the Building Regulations. Due to the nature of a night club any insulation would ideally go on the outside of the building to avoid losing the cooling potential of the thermally massive walls.

      Mr. Byrom, MSc

  3. The acoustic report commissioned by Iliad is robust, the information contained therein is in line with the current industry standards (and it’s also very well set out). The author clearly wants the development to proceed yet a fair and factual report has been published.

    There are two sections of AEC REPORT: P3253/R1/PJK which may have been overlooked by other readers we I deem worthy of further consideration:

    Section 5.15 “Windows can be openable providing that they are effectively acoustically sealed when closed and it is important that any frames and seals do not downgrade the sound insulation performance of the glazing.”

    – All seals, in particular those which are frequently moved deteriorate over time, this deterioration will reduce the effectiveness of the soundproofing and expose the night club to a potential breech of condition when the seals fail. This seems somewhat unjust when Section 5.16 is considered.

    Section 5.16 “The above glazing and ventilation strategies are different from LCC’s standard requirement and would, therefore, need to be agreed with the Local Authority in advance.”

    – The Liverpool City Council’s standard requirement for a development such as this includes Mechanical Ventilation with a sealed facade. For some reason Iliad is proposing to ignore this guidance. Typically we would expect Continuous Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery in line with Part L of the Building regulations and a sealed facade. This system reduces uncontrolled ventilation het loss, improves indoor air quality, and significantly reduces outside noise pollution – which in this area of Liverpool ranges not just from clubs but from cars to seagulls and even the occasional boat horn.

    If the Local Authority Planning Department grant dispensation for Iliad to build to an inferior specification and that specification impacts local businesses, is it not reasonable that those local businesses are compensated?

    By going against including Liverpool City Council’s standard requirement Iliad will force these companies to add otherwise unnecessary soundproofing to their buildings. Such works will be classified as an upgrade to a retained thermal element and and fall under Part L2B of the Building Regulations. Due to the nature of a night club any insulation would ideally go on the outside of the building to avoid losing the cooling potential of the thermally massive walls.

    Mr. Byrom, MSc

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