A residential and commercial development to be built 150 metres from the venue was given the go-ahead by Bristol City Council last night.
The development, which will also include office and retail space, was signed off last night by a ten to one majority. It will be situated on Redcliffe Wharf, 150 metres from the venue, a converted cargo ship. Representatives for Thekla, Julie Tippins and Alex Black, had raised concerns at the planning committee hearing over the impact of noise complaints from prospective residents. A noise survey carried out by the developer, Complex Development Projects, was said by Tippins to be inadequate because it could only account for the noise levels generated by the venue when it was half full.
"We are disappointed that despite our compelling arguments for a deferral of this decision until a suitable and sufficient noise survey can be conducted, this development in its current proposal is going forward," Thekla said in a statement issued shortly after the meeting. "We appeal to the developer to keep to the promise they made in this hearing to work with us on a new noise survey and then liaise with us on improved sound insulation scheme to protect Thekla and their future residents against noise problems."
Speaking to the Bristol Post, Gary Hale, the development director, said closing down Thekla was "the last thing we want to do."
"We want to work closely with Thekla and we are disappointed that they didn't raise their concerns with us directly before the meeting," he said. "There is a lot of noise generated around the development site, including the bells of St Mary Church, ambient noise including traffic and even the units which are going to be built underneath the flats, so they will be soundproofed to a high level. We believe we can address all the issues raised by Thekla, so they need not worry."
Complex Development Projects reportedly purchased the land from the council for under £777,000. According to the Bristol Post, this figure was described as "peanuts" by the planning committee when compared with the cost of similar plots of land. Concerns were also raised about the low number of affordable flats included in the development. The city council's planning policy requires new developments to make between 20 to 40 percent of residential units affordable. Only three of the 36 proposed flats are designated as such. Complex Development Projects argued the plan would otherwise be too expensive to implement.
Thekla has been a nightclub since the 1990s. Although it was initially used for theatre, it has since catered to the city's punk, rave and live music scenes. In the past year, it has hosted acts like Thundercat, Joe Goddard and Session Victim.
Property development is just one threat facing UK music venues. A 2015 report from The Association Of Licensed Multiple Retailers said more than half of the UK's nightclubs had closed in the preceding ten years. Research by The Music Venue Trust shows that around 35% of grassroots music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015.
Watch a short documentary about Thekla.