Tensions feared after Birmingham approves block of flats near gay club

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The Guardian

Activists and councillors in Birmingham have warned of possible “rising tensions” in the city’s gay village after a proposed 12-storey block of flats near a famous nightclub was given the go-ahead.

Approval has been given to the development of 456 apartments on the same road as the city’s oldest gay nightclub, the Nightingale, in the heart of the city’s LGBT quarter.

Discussions about noise mitigation are taking place but provisional plans show £1.3m will be set aside to help the club reduce noise with measures such as an “acoustically treated” smoking area, the closure of the first and second floor balconies and the creation of acoustic barriers.

It is also estimated about 10% of the apartments would have sealed windows to block out noise from the Nightingale, which is open until 6am on Saturdays, as well as the Fox, another LGBT bar nearby.

Lauren Rainbow, Birmingham Labour’s LGBT+ officer, said: “Many of us are keen to just make sure that the gay village is protected, and that we’re not seeing any rising tension from the people who are moving into the new housing getting frustrated with the noise and behaviour. They need to be aware of the area they are moving into.

“We absolutely need more housing, Birmingham has got a 50,000 shortfall in housing. But if the balance isn’t right, then obviously, tensions do rise. From what we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, it falls on the venues and bars that end up either having temporary holds or issues with their licences.”

Last year there was concern about increased homophobic attacks in the city, after a couple were assaulted with broken bottles on a night out in the gay village.

“We’ve seen a rising number of attacks on the community, and we know a lot of homophobia and transphobia goes underreported,” said Rainbow. “This is the one space the LGBT+ community has where they should be able to feel safe and have venues that they can be themselves.”

She added she had contacted planning officers to ask what consultation had been carried out with the LGBT+ community. “Wherever a big change is happening, we have to see consultation with the communities most affected. The Nightingale has been serving the community for over 50 years now, so it’s just such a vital thing,” she said.

Gareth Moore, a Conservative councillor in the city, said the location of the development was “very disappointing”. “Having residential accommodation right next to late-night entertainment venues like the Nightingale is a real risk, particularly from noise complaints,” he said.

The development is the second proposed residential complex in the city’s gay village to be given the green light in recent weeks, after a block containing 628 apartments was approved last month.

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That 27-storey block, which is also in close proximity to the Nightingale and the Fox, and directly opposite the Village Inn, could have up to a quarter of its windows sealed to mitigate noise, equating to about 150 apartments.

Lawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale and festival director of Birmingham Pride, previously told the Express and Star: “The council has been very supportive of our plight but the discussion has gone backwards and forwards. If we reach an agreement in the future, which I certainly hope so, we will not be able to have the outdoor balconies.

“We are confident that the measures won’t harm the club. We welcome the development. But of course, it has to respect and accommodate the LGBTQI community and its night-time economy.”

July 13, 2022 at 08:36PM Jessica Murray Midlands correspondent

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