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The Stables Secures Its Future!

Friday 5 April 2019

Planning Development Update: 05/04/19

Following last night's meeting of Milton Keynes Council's Planning Control Committee, The Stables has issued the following statement today:

"The Stables Theatre is very grateful to the members of Milton Keynes Council who voted unanimously last night to secure its future by imposing a condition on the Reserved Matters planning application by Abbey Homes that the developer enter into a Deed of Easement.

The Deed of Easement will provide The Stables with the legal right to continue to make noise at the existing levels and will ensure that all future residents of the development are legally bound by this right.

The Development Control Committee expressed their concern that despite welcome noise mitigating measures agreed by the developer, there remained a significant risk that a future resident would complain about noise from The Stables.  For that reason, Members decided that additional protection was necessary for planning reasons.

The deed doesn’t protect The Stables against statutory noise nuisance complaints but the Stables has always sought to avoid committing a statutory nuisance in any event. Instead, the deed will provide a line of defence from private nuisance complaints that could result in claims for damages or restrictions that could ultimately lead to the venue having to curb its activities.

Monica Ferguson, Chief Executive & Artistic Director of The Stables was delighted with the outcome saying “This marks a real turning point for us in our campaign to secure the future of The Stables as we head towards our 50th anniversary in 2020. We are particularly grateful for the support of the public, artists, staff and volunteers who have campaigned to safeguard the venue’s future.”

The legal arguments were set out by Tim Taylor of Foot Anstey who secured the Deed of Easements for The Ministry of Sound and The George Tavern in London.  Tim will now work with Milton Keynes Council and the developers to agree the terms of the Deed of Easement with The Stables.

Tim said: “this is a forward-looking decision by the Members of the MK Planning Committee.  By requiring the deed of easement as a condition of the development proceeding, Members have helped to secure the future of this fantastic venue while also helping the delivery of much-needed new housing.”

Jim Rice, Chair of Trustees, said: “this is a great decision for The Stables and, I hope, for the UK's live music industry generally.”


Planning Development Update: 04/04/19

Despite overwhelming evidence presented to MK Council officers that there remains a risk of noise complaints from future residents, they are sticking with the view that the developer has ‘gone above and beyond the the requirements of the applicant’s and the Council’s acoustic consultant’s recommendations and therefore it is not considered necessary to require the applicant to enter into a Deed of Easement as an additional mitigation measure.’

You can read more detail on the Council Officer's Recommendations here

It is unclear from the report whether the Council’s Environmental Health Officer has reviewed our acoustic report commissioned from WSP Global which was submitted and calls into question the credibility of the mitigation measures as they are based on unsound measurements.

 See here for an executive Summary of WSP’s report on the noise matters which concludes that:

“Milton Keynes Council has failed to properly consider the protection of the Stables in the determination of the outline permission and in its consideration of the reserved matters application. It is suggested that noise mitigation measures proposed in draft planning conditions are currently insufficient and should be revisited in the light of this report. Furthermore, the wording of the proposed conditions would not meet the requirements of national planning policy, and so would be vulnerable to legal challenge. The report concludes that a Deed of Easement should be agreed to afford a reasonable level of protection for the Stables from the potential impacts of noise complaints in the future, and event noise levels enshrined in such a Deed would need to be established from surveys of entertainment events that are adequate in scope to represent the reasonable worst case, and conform with good practice guidance.

On this basis, it is recommended that the determination of the application should be deferred from the current Committee date of the 04 April until such time as more rigorous noise assessments have been conducted to underpin a more robust scheme of noise mitigation measures, and the drafting of a suitable Deed of Easement.”


Planning Development Update: 03/04/19

Jim Rice, Chair of Trustees and Monica Ferguson, The Stables CEO & Artistic Director have today written to the Planning Officer at Milton Keynes Council for the attention of all Councillors on the Planning Control Committee.

Read their full letter here

The letter finishes...

"On behalf of the Stables, the 3,000 people who wrote in support of protecting the venue, the 50 people who work here, and the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy our events each year, we would urge you to do the lawful things, do the right thing, and ensure a deed of easement is required as part of any approval of the application. The Stables can be saved, and it is within your power to do so."

Thank you to everyone who has been expressing their support over the past few days - it is hugely appreciated.

It would be great to see as many supporters as possible at tomorrow's (Thursday 4 April) Planning Control Committee meeting - it's open to the public. It starts at 7pm and takes place at the Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ.


And also for your information...

A report from WSP Engineers, based in Cambridge, who we commissioned to review and comment on MK Council's own acoustic report on the potential nuisance to residents in the proposed new development posed by noise bleed from The Stables.

Read the full report here

The executive summary concludes with the following...

"It concludes that MKC has failed to properly consider the protection of the Stables in the determination of the outline permission and in its consideration of the reserved matters application. It is suggested that noise mitigation measures proposed in draft planning conditions are currently insufficient and should be revisited in the light of this report. Furthermore, the wording of the proposed conditions would not meet the requirements of national planning policy, and so would be vulnerable to legal challenge. The report concludes that a Deed of Easement should be agreed to afford a reasonable level of protection for the Stables from the potential impacts of noise complaints in the future, and event noise levels enshrined in such a Deed would need to be established from surveys of entertainment events that are adequate in scope to represent the reasonable worst case, and conform with good practice guidance.

On this basis, it is recommended that the determination of the application should be deferred from the current Committee date of the 04 April until such time as more rigorous noise assessments have been conducted to underpin a more robust scheme of noise mitigation measures, and the drafting of a suitable Deed of Easement."


Planning Development Update: 01/04/19

We would encourage anyone with an interest in the future of The Stables to attend an open-to-the-public meeting of Milton Keynes Council's Planning Control Committee at 7pm on Thursday 4 April at the Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ.

If you are not able to attend but would like to express your concerns, then please write to Milton Keynes Council / Councillors setting out any concerns or comments arising from the report which is available on the Milton Keynes Website Planning Portal www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/publicaccess  or by visiting the Civic Offices, Saxon Gate East, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ. 

On 25 March we received formal notification from Milton Keynes Council (MKC) that the planning application 18/01304/REM for residential units to the West of The Stables in Wavendon will now be brought back to the Development Control Committee on Thursday 4 April – (2 months earlier than indicated when it was deferred at the meeting last month).

The decision was deferred at the March meeting in order to give the developers, The Stables and MKC time to resolve the outstanding matters of concern which had been raised in relation to noise mitigating measures.  At the planning meeting we reiterated our invitation to the Developers to enter into a deed of easement which would permit sound waves to travel over the adjoining land to ensure that all future residents were given sufficient robust notice of our presence as a music venue and our rights to make noise.

Following the meeting we had no representation or contact from Milton Keynes Council or the Developers to work with us on our concerns as envisaged at the meeting.

In particular, we wanted to find a way to encourage the Developers to enter into the deed of easement which in particular protects The Stables from one of the residents seeking to claim a private nuisance is occurring and seeking an injunction or damages against The Stables.

We therefore appointed Tim Taylor of Foot Anstey to provide legal advice to The Stables and he has written to Milton Keynes Council advising them of why their report is wrong.  In particular it states: “It is the Local Planning Authority’s position that a deed of easement is a separate civil legal process falling entirely outside the planning system, and the applicant has made it clear that they are not prepared to enter into such an agreement at this time, as part of the planning determination.”

Tim’s experience includes the successful negotiation of a deed of easement for the Ministry of Sound and The George Tavern in Stepney.  Further to this we sought a barrister’s Opinion on the matter of law in question which we received today.  We decided to go for the best barristers, as otherwise we were worried that the Opinion might not be accepted as a correct statement of the legal position. 

The Opinion from David Elvin QC and Richard Moules of Landmark Chambers examines the matter.  (David Elvin QC is not only an eminent QC but also sits as a judge in the High Court.)  Their Opinion concludes:

“the Council is wrong to regard the suggested deed of easement as immaterial, and its decision is vulnerable to being quashed by the High Court unless it corrects its legal error. The deed of easement is a material planning consideration that the Council should have regard to. The Council can secure a deed of easement by way of Grampian condition or s.106 obligation, and it may also become a party to the deed of easement.”

We are grateful to the Developers and MKC for their efforts to date to address our concerns. However, there is still a significant risk to the future operation / viability of The Stables.  Many other venues up and down the country have been forced to close because of complaints from new residents moving into the area, and we don't want to become just another statistic on that casualty list.  A deed of easement would address this problem, for everyone's benefit, and now there's a legal opinion from one of the country's top planning barristers which confirms that it would be lawful.

At present, the report tries to deal with noise  in condition 13: “Prior to the first occupation of the development hereby permitted a scheme outlining how the developer will notify new residents of the development of the potential noise environment and the acoustic mitigation measures that are in place across the site, shall be submitted to, and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.  The development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.”

However, condition 13 is too weak in protecting the ongoing risk to The Stables and is likely to be unenforceable, which is why a condition for the Developer to enter into a deed of easement is required. 

Thank you in advance if you are able to attend the meeting or submit supporting comments on our behalf.

Feel free to mention the deed of easement - it's lawful, it’s straightforward and it enables the houses to be built and The Stables to be fully protected.  It's a win-win and the right thing for MKC to do.

Below you can download a copy of the report and the agenda for Thursday's meeting.

A deed of easement is within reach.  By all of us working together, we can still save The Stables.


Planning Development Update: 08/03/19

7 March 2019: Development Control Committee Outcome: Deferment 

The Development Control Committee of Milton Keynes Council met on 7 March 2019 to consider the planning application 18/01304/REM for 134 residential units to the West of The Stables in Wavendon, Milton Keynes.

At the start of the meeting, The Stables set out concerns with the recommended conditions, including the omission of window performance standards recommended for the whole scheme by the Council’s appointed acoustic consultants.  The Stables also reiterated its call for the Developer, Abbey Homes Limited to enter into a Deed of Easement for sound waves to be permitted over the adjoining land to ensure that all future residents were given sufficient robust notice of the rights of the neighbouring music venue to continue its existing level of operation.

Whilst not a planning matter, the Deed of Easement is a legal instrument which has been applied in several high profile cases including The Ministry of Sound and The George Tavern in London.

The Stables welcomed the range of measures which had been agreed as noise mitigation for the scheme including the introduction of a 30m buffer zone, acoustic fence and some remodelling of the scheme.  However, there remains a residual risk that the proposed measures will not work. 

There is a risk that a future resident complains to the Environmental Health Officer on the grounds that a statutory nuisance is ocurring.  The EHO has the power to take action if the noise “unreasonably and substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of a home or other premises...”.  If upheld, the Council could take abatement action including a restriction of operating hours or requiring the venue to make suitable further noise adjustments to its site to prevent future disturbance.  For this reason robust mitigation measures are required as conditions – helping to reduce this risk, but with no guarantee they will be 100% successful.

A second risk is that one of the residents of the scheme seeks to claim that a private nuisance is occurring and claims either an injunction or damages.  The simplest way to ensure such a claim can’t succeed is for the Developer to enter into a Deed of Easement which would effectively allow The Stables to continue to create noise on its land in the normal course of its business.  Any future occupier buying a property in the Development would be made aware of this deed from the outset and go into the transaction with their eyes open.   

For clarity, the Deed of Easement is not a planning matter and can only be agreed between The Stables and the Developer.  To date, the Developer has not agreed to The Stables proposal to enter into such a deed. 

This places even greater emphasis on the need for high specification windows throughout the scheme. The Council omitted this from its condititions and noted it would appear as an informative for the Developer. This is a material matter as it means the specification is purely advisory and the Developer may opt not to install the higher specification windows.  Secondly, as it was not imposed as a condition, even if the Developer opted for these higher specification windows, it gives residents the option to replace windows in the future without putting adequate insulating windows into the property, thereby creating a risk that the noise insulating properties of the scheme will be degraded over time.  This creates further risk to The Stables operation over a longer period.

Accordingly the Development Control Committee determined that the decision should be deferred until its June meeting to allow time for the parties to agree further measures to mitigate the risk to The Stables and safeguard the residential amenity of future residents.  

We are grateful to the Committee for allowing more time to pursue these important discussions and to all those who continue to support our efforts to safeguard The Stables future.


Planning Development Update: 05/03/19

We have submitted the attached letter today (Tuesday 5 March) in response to Milton Keynes Council's final report and recommendations (also attached below) on the plans for the development to the west of The Stables site. 

We are meeting with the Council's planning officer on 6 March so there may be a further update, but until there are amendments to the report and conditions, we have no option but to set out our residual concerns in writing in the hope that they may yet be resolved in advance of the Development Control Committee meeting to be held on Thursday 7 March. This meeting will begin at 7pm at the Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ. Anyone can attend this meeting and would be welcome in the public gallery.


Planning Development Update: 25/01/19

Following the update posted on 20 December 2018 with regard to the application for housing development by Abbey Development on the Western boundary of The Stables we wanted to update everyone on further discussions and the time frame for the planning application decision.

We are advised that the date for the development control committee meeting is now likely to be Thursday 7 March 2019.  This has been moved from the original date of 6 February to allow time for further discussion and exploration of amendments to the scheme.  Once new information / documents are available to view we will pass on relevant information, however our focus has been to request that:

  1. the landscaping to the boundary area provides the maximum screening and noise retention through natural planting and sculpting of the landscape to retain the rural nature of the buffer zone (This may require the relocation of the Local Equipped Area of Play (LEAP) to another part of the scheme or the provision of access for the LEAP planned to the North of The Stables in a ‘joined-up approach’ which will be explored.)
  2. the location of the residual block of flats is moved or the height of the development is reduced (The developers have agreed to produce a cross-section of the development to assess the visual impact from The Stables site.  Their suggested response to this concern is to provide opaque windows / reduce the number of windows on the top floor of the flats overlooking The Stables site.)
  3. the development uses fixed closed windows to a recommended specification where required to mitigate any potential noise nuisance from The Stables into residential premises extending beyond the front line of the development if necessary (Milton Keynes Council will consider this in light of their consultant’s report and review how the planning condition can be worded to ensure this.)
  4. the planning conditions adequately state the requirements and that future changes to the specifications will be subject to planning approval (Milton Keynes Council will provide The Stables with a draft of the planning conditions for our legal team to review.)
  5. the Stables will not be held accountable if the noise mitigation measures approved by Milton Keynes Council do not adequately protect the residents of the development and in the light of no agreed noise monitoring policy (Milton Keynes Council will seek a further meeting with Environmental Health to explore what further reassurances can be given.)



Planning Development Update: 20/12/18

Below you will find an 'executive summary' of the current position - for a more detailed review please download the following document (we have also attached copies of MK Council's Noise Policy Statement and Noise Investigation Procedure for reference): 

Executive Summary

Following the application for housing development by Abbey Development on the Western boundary of The Stables site earlier this year, The Stables was grateful for the overwhelming level of support shown by our customers, artists and stakeholders with more than 3000 letters of objection received by Milton Keynes Council.

Since that time, The Stables has worked with Milton Keynes Council and the developers to encourage a revision to the plans that would ensure our activities are not compromised in the future.  The Stables has enjoyed 48 years of successful operation in line with its Premises Licence and is keen to ensure that it is not subject to restrictive licensing conditions that may be imposed subsequent to housing development on our border.

We are grateful to the developers for their efforts to improve the noise separation from The Stables to the proposed housing develoment, and had hoped that all of our concerns would have been resolved before the next round of public consultation. 

The developers have now submitted revised plans and Milton Keynes Council has sent out notification of the amended proposal for comment with a deadline of the 26th December 2018 (Boxing Day)Unfortunately, despite many improvements to the scheme, we still have a number of residual concerns – mostly relating to noise monitoring – that we hope can be addressed early in the New Year and before the Council’s Development Control Committee / Panel meet on the 6th February 2019.

Milton Keynes Council has advised that documents can be viewed on their planning portal, however we have found it very difficult to access the documents on the portal and accordingly, we are making public the key documents which have have been sent (available to view in the downloadable document at the top of this page).  We would advise however, that if you can access the portal to view the documents, please do so via www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/publicaccess.  The Reference is 18/01304/REM. 

We agree with Milton Keynes Council that we have made significant progress thanks to the positive engagement by all of us.  We note that the council has offered more clarity and detail around the buffer zone and has also made reference to the potential for a high acoustic screening fence.  They have agreed to share further details of the wording of conditions which we hope will provide further reassurance.  We also require a clear statement of policy regarding the noise monitoring processes that will be used in the case of any challenges to our Premises Licence.

We will update this information if we have any further news on the matter prior to the Development Control Committee meeting on 6 February.  We understand comments can be made to Milton Keynes Council at any point before the meeting, however we are acutely aware that the public consultation letters that have been sent out contain a deadline of 26 December 2018 (Boxing Day).  The Development Control Committee meeting is a public meeting and interested parties are invited to attend.

We continue to urge Milton Keynes Council to work with the developers to ensure that the future of The Stables is protected by ensuring that future residents will co-exist with The Stables without fear of noise nuisance and that The Stables will not be subjected to noise conditions in the future that it cannot meet because the planning process failed to address our residual concerns.

To register your comments

Any comments must be made in writing to the Council by 26 December and should include your name and postal address in any e-mails or letters as anonymous comments cannot be taken into account.  Any comments received will be published on the Council’s website.

To register your comments please visit MK Council's planning application site – if you haven’t done so already you will need to register.

Alternatively please email your comments to planning.enquiries@milton-keynes.gov.uk FAO Chenge Taruvinga (the case officer at MK Council) and quoting Application 18/01304/REM 

Your continued support is much appreciated. 

with  best wishes for the Festive Season

Jim Rice (Chair) & Monica Ferguson (Chief Executive & Artistic Director)


Planning Development Update: 20/8/18

We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to submit comments to Milton Keynes Council on the proposed housing development by Abbey Development on the Western boundary of The Stables site.

We have taken a great deal of comfort from thousands of letters of objection and the petitions which have been drafted, signed and submitted by audiences, artists, volunteers and other supporters.

The collective outcry at the proposals has been the basis for detailed discussions with Milton Keynes Council.  Although there is still much to resolve, and no certainty of the outcome as yet, we remain committed to working with the council and the developer to find a solution that protects the future of The Stables.

We do hope that the meetings will result in revisions to the Design Code and the Reserved Matters planning application which have been submitted by the Developers.  In particular we are keen to see a) a landscaped green buffer with earth mounding and native trees which can provide a dense green barrier, b) a reduction in the height of properties facing the site and c) designs which ensure that sleeping / living areas face away from The Stables. 

We are advised that the time taken to revisit these submissions is likely to result in a delay to the Development Control Committee meeting (originally planned for September) where the final decision will be made, with the most likely scenario being a meeting in November or December. We will update this advice as soon as we have more information.

There is still time to make your voice heard!

Anyone who wishes to view and comment on the Reserved Matters Application and the Design Code can access these on the Milton Keynes Council Planning Portal: www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/publicaccess 

Please use the Planning Reference: 18/01304/REM for the Reserved Matters application and 18/01631/CONS for the proposed Design Code in the search bar. You can continue to submit comments until the Development Control Committee meets.
Please ensure that any comments to Milton Keynes Council include your name and postal address as anonymous comments cannot be taken into account.  Any comments received will be published on the Council’s website.


Update: 20/6/2018 There is more time to submit your objection

As a result of the tremendous response we have received to date to our request for support in opposing the planned housing development, we have been informed that the matter will now be taken to a full Planning Committee meeting at MK Council. The date of this meeting is still to be confirmed - this could be up to 6 weeks away - but it does mean there is MORE time to log your objection to the proposed scheme. Please do not delay in submitting this so that your objection can be 'officially' logged.  As and when we have news of the meeting date and time we will  update our website and social media channels. 

*** IMPORTANT - please do NOT email any more messages to Case Officer at MK Council - his Inbox has been overwhelmed and cannot cope with any more messages! 

You can put comments in writing (using one of the template letters at the bottom of this page, or one of your own) to the Council at the following address: Jeremy Lee, Senior Planning Officer, Milton Keynes Council, Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ 

Please note you MUST quote Planning Reference: 18/01304/REM.  

Alternatively, you can submit your comments via www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/publicaccess Use the above reference number in the Search bar.

Please include your name and postal address in any emails or letters as anonymous comments cannot be taken into account. Any comments received will be published on the Council’s website. 

Thank you again for your amazing support!


18/6/2018: A letter from Monica Ferguson, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, The Stables 

Hello

As a valued customer/supporter of The Stables I am writing to alert you to a concerning development which threatens the future viability of The Stables and its learning and participation activity.

For several years, The Stables has been trying to work with Milton Keynes Council to protect the environment around the site from encroaching development that may threaten our future viability.

I am sad to report that we have already lost the battle to retain a green buffer on the North side of the venue and the new housing development planned by Crest Nicholson on this site includes the provision of two permanent play parks on the field, previously used for our National Youth Music Camps, held every Summer since 1970.

Now we are faced with an even greater threat from development to the West of the Venue with a housing scheme planned by Abbey Developments that will see three-storey flats built directly opposite The Stables, overlooking the main entrance if it is allowed to proceed (you can download a copy of the plans below).

The implications of this for us are significant. Many of you may be aware of the news of music venues across the country being forced to close because housing developers have moved in to build adjacent to venues and then residents have subsequently complained about noise and nuisance. When this happens licensing constraints are put on the venues often making the operation unsustainable.

We anticipate future concerns would arise around the noise of vehicles coming to and from the site late into the evening, noise from the bands bleeding out of the two performance spaces and noise from any music making activity which we do with young people around the site during Summer months.

If any of the residents moving in to property just 12 metres from our boundary consider these to be a nuisance, you can only imagine the licensing constraints which will be applied simply making it impossible to continue both our extensive concert programme and our learning and participation programme on this site.

So, I am writing to ask you to join our campaign to make some noise and ensure Milton Keynes Council listen to our concerns.  Please write with your concerns in your own words, or using the relevant template letter which you can download at the bottom of this page.

You can put comments in writing to the Council at the following address: Jeremy Lee, Senior Planning Officer, Milton Keynes Council, Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ 

Please note you MUST quote Planning Reference: 18/01304/REM.  

Alternatively, you can submit your comments via www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/publicaccess Use the above reference number in the Search bar.

Please include your name and postal address in any emails or letters as anonymous comments cannot be taken into account. Any comments received will be published on the Council’s website. 

Thank you for your help!

Best wishes

Monica R. Ferguson Chief Executive & Artistic Director