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O2 Academy under threat as student flats plan approved

Fears for venue's future as office block is to be converted into halls of residence

Birmingham's O2 Academy

One of Birmingham’s leading rock and pop venues claims its future is under threat after plans for a student apartment block next door were approved.

The O2 Academy on Bristol Street urged city planners not to give the go-ahead for the conversion of an empty six-storey office block into a halls of residence.

Owners fear that complaints over noise and nuisance from future residents could lead to the live music venue, which has hosted acts like Primal Scream, Birmingham’s own Ocean Colour Scene and Florence and the Machine, closing.

It was a fate which befell popular Brindleyplace jazz venue the Fiddle and Bone, when residents of new apartment blocks complained about the noise.

Russell Dooely, of Academy Music Group, told the committee that they are also concerned that the onus is on the venue to install noise proof measures, even though there has been a night club on the site for years.

He said that it is ‘unacceptable’ for the club to have to close for work to be carried out, just because someone moves in next door.

He said: “We feel this is a threat to our business, there is a real risk here.”

Birmingham’s own environmental health department, which investigates noise complaints also urged refusal over the noise concerns.

A spokeswoman for developer Barton Willmore told the committee that the office block had been empty for nine years and that it is a good site for student accommodation.

It was added that the refit would see the block fitted with noise dampening materials. The planning committee all agreed that the Academy is a valued part of Birmingham’s nightlife and they would not wish to put it at risk.

Coun John Clancy (Lab, Quinton) reminded colleagues they had rejected development at other live music venues and next to the Cadbury factory to guard against noise complaints.

“We should take as much care over this as we have in the past,” he said.

But the concerned councillors were advised that government backed changes in planning regulations currently being introduced would allow the empty office to be turned into general flats in a few months, from which residents are even more likely to object to noise.

Chief planning officer Richard Goulborn explained: “The student proposal is the best option.”

The plan was approved.           

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