Koko triumphs in historic planning battle

October 2015

Live events sector



A historic Camden nightspot has triumphed in a High Court battle to block plans to convert a neighbouring pub into flats after a judge ruled that councillors’ attention had not been drawn to the potential heritage impact of the development.
Koko, located at 1A Camden High Street, appealed to the High Court after plans to turn the Hope and Anchor pub into eight flats were approved. The club and live venue’s owners, Obar Camden Ltd, emerged victorious after the court ruled councillors had been “significantly misled” by planning officers. The Hope & Anchor’s owner, Vidacraft Ltd, also planned to build a three-storey extension and either shops or estate agent’s offices on the ground floor. Camden Council had granted permission for the project on January 6th, but the ruling has now been quashed.
Koko began life as The Camden Theatre and was opened on Boxing Day 1900. In 1909 the theatre was renamed The Camden Hippodrome and was a variety theatre where Charlie Chaplin regularly performed. The venue became a cinema in 1913 and in 1928 ‘Novelty Nights’ were introduced on Fridays with up to seven live acts appearing before a film was shown. In 1933 the cinema was wired for sound and free Christmas performances were given to the local children. The cinema closed in 1940 and for some 20 years from 1945 the building became a BBC Theatre. Here they recorded shows such as the famous Goon Show, and ‘Rhythm and Blues’, which featured a performance from the Rolling Stones. In 1970 the venue was reincarnated as The Music Machine, and it found a place at the heart of Punk and played host to some of the decade’s most legendary shows. Both the Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden performed live, and it was home to The Clash for a momentous 4 day residency in the summer of ’78. The venue became the Camden Palace in 1982 and the New Romantic scene soon found its home, and this decade saw performances from the Eurythmics, the Cure, local boys Madness and the first ever UK show from Madonna. The venue was refurbished in 2004 and opened as Koko in 2005.
The club’s had argued the development had no place in Camden’s vibrant centre, and would be at odds with the area’s character, and that any new residents would be likely to complain about noise from Koko and other nearby venues, which would be a threat to their own and other local businesses. Mr Justice Stewart said councillors’ attention had not been drawn to the impact of the development on Koko. Although a planning officer had been convinced the development would cause no harm, the Mr Justice Syewart said the process had been “truncated”, adding that councillors had been “significantly misled” by the planning officer’s report in relation to certain aspects of the noise issue.
The Judge also concluded that Council’s approach to planning conditions designed to mitigate the impact of noise on residents of the new flats was irrational. Camden Council will now have to reconsider Vidacraft’s application.
In central London, large-scale redevelopment projects have seen the closure of Madame Jo Jo’s and the Astoria and the relocation of the 12 Bar Club; Camden has witnessed the closure of the Purple Turtle and the Stillery. Several other Camden venues and Oxford Street’s 100 Club are said to be threatened. So, too, are a number of venues outside the capital, notably Southampton’s the Joiners, the Tunbridge Wells Forum, Exeter’s Cavern, Hull’s Adelphi and Manchester’s Band on the Wall. This writer makes no secret of his view that we need developers to take responsibility for their developments and, as a country that thrives on live music, we need to adopt the ‘agent of change’ policy as soon as possible – making sure it is developers who have to take the action to protrect new residents from noise – and change the shift in planning so developers (rather than existing clubs, pubs and venues) ate the ones who cover all of the costs of development, planning and any noise issues.  London Mayor Boris Johnson brokered a deal to protect the Ministry of Sound in in South London from a proposed development.
The Musicians Union has argued that new regulations should be introduced to protect live music venues from possible closure following noise complaints. A similar law was recently introduced in the state of Victoria in Australia and in San Fransisco.  John Smith, MU General Aecretary, said: “Venues must, of course, stick to the terms of their licence and residents must be able to complain if they do not comply or are causing a genuine nuisance. But equally, flats which are built above, adjacent or nearby to an existing music venue should not take precedent over an established institution. “The onus should be on the agent of change, and developers who build flats and houses next to venues must be required to let potential residents know so that they can make an informed decision about whether they would like to live there, as well as ensuring adequate soundproofing.”




Turtle Bay restaurant chain plan to open at old Crown and Goose pub site – but new neighbours worry about late night noise  http://www.camdennewjournal.com/cgrow

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