The Live Music Forum


Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 14th January2009 - Noise limiter petition taps public distrust of government

How badly does the government treat live music? Here's a quick test. One of the two statements below is false. Which one?

1. The government has made it a potential criminal offence merely to have a piano in a bar for the public to play.
2. The government is planning new law requiring all music venues to fit noise limiting devices.

Answer: Statement 2.

But this has not stopped a petition based on statement 2 above shooting into the top 10 on the Number 10 website with nearly 20,000 signatures:

Yesterday the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs (DEFRA), responsible for noise legislation, denied any such plan. And, a few days earlier, when I spoke to the petitioner, Warren James, a professional guitarist based in Coventry ( ) he was unable to recall where he had heard about this new legislation.

While musicians sympathise with Warren's feeling about noise limiters, the petition text reveals a fundamental lack of knowledge about existing law.

For many years, using entertainment licensing, local authorities have had the power to require venues to fit noise limiters. This continues under the present regime. So the government doesn't need to introduce a new law.

But under the current legislation it would be potentially unlawful for local authorities to impose a blanket requirement that all venues fit noise limiters, or to impose unnecessary or disproportionate conditions. Government licensing guidance implies that noise limiters may fall into the latter category (see p22, para 2.34, Licensing Guidance issued under s182 of the Licensing Act 2003
download PDF from DCMS website: )

Some local authorities may have abused their powers in this regard, however, enforcing noise limiters where they know licensees cannot afford to challenge them through the courts. It is worth campaigning against that, although in many ways that is already being done within the broader campaign to get small gigs out of the entertainment licensing regime altogether. The government has promised a public consultation on new exemptions for small gigs by the Spring.


Hamish Birchall