Sydney could bury its recent reputation as a late-night cultural graveyard, though the community will need to dig in.
The City of Sydney is canvassing feedback for its new discussion paper, entitled ‘Open and Creative City, planning for culture and the night-time economy,’ which, as its title suggests, lays out plans to reinvigorate the flagging nightlife while keeping creatives, businesses and residents happy.
Venues and performers could be among the big winners in the new proposals, which residents are invited to engage in. The discussion paper touts noise management procedures already in place in Melbourne and San Francisco where new developments near existing entertainment venues would be required to implement measures to manage noise impacts from venues. On the flip side, new entertainment venues would be required to ensure existing residential properties aren’t impacted from “noise” (or “music,” depending on your definition).
This ‘Agent of Change’ system would be accompanied by new planning controls and “transparent, easy to understand” noise compliance guidelines for venues. The bottom line: this will change how the city manages entertainment noise.
Currently, Sydney venues operate under a set of guidelines which are strict on noise leakage. Under those rules, any noise from an entertainment site from 7am to midnight mustn’t exceed the background noise by 5 decibels as it reaches the edge of a residential property (for the sake of comparison, the sound of leaves falling is measured at about 10 dbs). And for that overnight shift (midnight until 7am), the noise coming from a venue shouldn’t exceed background noise for local residents, though older venues sometimes work under “legacy conditions of consent” and don’t have operational noise limits. Any “offensive” noise as defined under the POEO Act can be met with legal action to bring down the volume.
“We are proposing to make it easier for businesses to trade later, encourage small-scale cultural events and activities across the city, and balance the impacts of live music and performance venues on local neighbourhoods,” the CoS claims in its An Open and Creative City document. Its authors stress the paper strikes a balance between “new”’ versus “existing” sites.
An Open and Creative City was developed from a suite of efforts explored in the City’s OPEN Sydney strategy and action plan and inspired by developments elsewhere.
Its creators claim its proposals, broken down into three main streams, will strengthen the city’s cultural life, boost the night-time economy and support the live music and performance scene. It’s the sort of kicker creatives and late-night businesses have been crying out for.
Sydney’s nightlife has been off the boil of late, with noise restrictions and the city’s contentious “lockout” laws widely blamed for killing the buzz.
Spearheaded by the then New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who bailed out in January of this year, the lockout laws were implemented early in 2014 following a pair of deaths in Kings Cross. The NSW government responded with a series of policies aimed at curbing alcohol-related violence. Among those changes, no one is allowed to enter or reenter a club after 1:30am, last call for drinks is at 3 a.m., and bottle shops can’t sell alcohol after 10 p.m. There’s been some softening of those hardline restrictions when, last December, those last drinks and lockout times were pushed back half an hour, provided they were hosting live entertainment. In January, some 20 venues across the entertainment precinct were allowed to keep their doors open an extra half hour.
Lock Outs have had a negative impact but in the long-term, high-density residential development and management of entertainment noise could be a much greater threat to night time live performance spaces in inner-Sydney, policy makers say.
The report comes a year after London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan appointed Amy Lamé, a broadcaster and comedian, as the city’s first ever Night Czar following a spate of closures of clubs and other late-night venues in the capital.
The City of Sydney invites the community to give feedback to its proposals detailed here in the discussion paper.
This consultation ends at the close of business on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. The conversation starts now.