Medway Council brings the noise (abatement notices)
Plus Asda tries to dominate Rochester, train fares get silly, and Medway Council spends a lot of money on pointless endeavours.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In my previous life as a gig promoter, one of the most challenging obstacles to putting on live music in Medway was the lack of venues. This remains a problem, particularly with the recent closure of the Royal Function Rooms, but at the time, the issue was made considerably worse by Medway Council regularly hitting venues with noise abatement notices.
Before we continue, it should be made clear that there are perfectly good reasons to use noise abatement notices. Venues causing a substantial nuisance should of course face restrictions on what they are able to do. The problem is largely how weighted the system is against venues.
This week, news broke that Lounge 44 on the High Street between Rochester and Chatham was being threatened with a licence revocation over noise complaints.
First, some caveats: I have never been to Lounge 44, and the reviews on Google are.. mixed, to say the least, though those are more about the food rather than any noise impacts.
Lounge 44 appears to have been a rare example of a recent business success story in our towns. The African bar and restaurant opened in October 2020 at the height of covid, yet seems to have developed into a thriving destination. They claim to be the only late-night African bar in Kent, which might explain part of the success.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. The venue was facing issues even before the noise complaints, with egging and racial abuse incidents last year:
Despite this, the venue seemed to do well, and requested an extension to their licence, allowing them to remain open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Licences for after midnight in Medway are fairly unusual, and the planning committee placed a number of conditions on this extension, including a noise assessment. These have been submitted to Medway Council, and if the venue is to be believed, they have installed extensive noise mitigation and soundproofing throughout the venue.
Complaints about the noise have seen them served with noise abatement notices though, which now puts their licence at risk. The venue claim that these complaints are a result of one person, and while there is no way to confirm that, it does track with similar experiences from the music venue crackdown of a decade ago.
Certainly, residents have a right to not be unduly disturbed, even if they live in central locations that host nightlife. But the system seems weighted toward expecting no disruption at all. There are few parts of Medway that have an active nightlife. In fact, it is difficult to find any outside of Rochester High Street and the Intra area here.
If you live on a street that contains several longstanding late-night venues (Poco Loco is a few doors along), there is going to be a certain level of disruption, and it is unreasonable to expect the street to change to suit you. It’s bad for our cultural scene, and it’s bad for the local economy.
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Asda set to dominate Rochester, apparently
Thanks to the reader that highlighted this story to me.
I somehow missed that last year Asda agreed to purchase Co-Op petrol stations across the country as an expansion into the petrol and convenience store market.
The deal includes all 132 Co-Op petrol stations, three of which are located in Medway, with one in Twydall, one in Strood, and one in Rochester.
And it’s the latter one there that potentially presents a problem.
The Competitions and Markets Authority (the CMA) is currently investigating the deal to ensure it doesn’t give Asda an unfair market position. It seems that in most locations it won’t, but it did raise concerns about 13 locations, one of them being Rochester.
The concern seems to be based on the fact that there are only three petrol stations in Rochester, and two of them would be operated by Asda as a result of this deal. Less competition would mean that consumers could theoretically face higher prices.
While the logic behind this is sound, it does seem unlikely that a petrol station switching from Co-Op to Asda would lead to increased prices, as Asda’s prices are usually considerably lower.
Still, it is right that these things are properly interrogated, and the CMA will now launch a more in-depth investigation before the deal can be finalised.
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: There are currently 37 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 2 of them on a ventilator. This is down 17% from last week.
Deaths: 2 new deaths were recorded this week, taking Medway to 1,016 covid deaths in total.
Train fares have got even more ridiculous
We all know that train fares in Kent are wildly out of control.
Last week, fares rose by 6% meaning that, in a depressing milestone, a peak-time high-speed return to London from every Medway station now costs more than £50. From Strood, it’s now £50.20, scaling up across our towns until you reach Rainham where it’s now an eye-watering £55.10
It’s completely unsustainable, particularly in a world where commuters often only need to travel on select days where a weekly or monthly season ticket can’t help cushion the blow.
There is still a good solution to this that would really help passengers…
Medway Council spending your money
Quick shout out to Medway’s Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson who has been submitting Freedom of Information requests to find out how much Medway Council has been spending on pointless endeavours.
£140,000 was spent on a levelling-up bid that was never going to be successful, driven by incompetence.
£26,000 was spent on trying to avoid looking after child refugees, driven by spite.
Good stuff, well done everyone involved.
New coworking option just dropped
This is a bit of a plug, sorry…
Many of you that know me know how important coworking has been to me over the years. I was one of the regular members at coFWD when that existed in Rochester, and really miss having that kind of creative, shared space to work from.
As such, I'm working with Creative Medway in getting something new off the ground. We're using a space at the Lightbox at Nucleus Rochester, and will be running coworking sessions every other Monday starting this Monday (the 20th).
The space isn't giant, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to book a space. There is no cost in coming along and using the space for the day. You can find out more about the project here.
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Next week, we’ll be publishing a substantial piece looking at crime stats in Medway, which I can assure you is a cheery read. Become a paid supporter to receive that as soon as it’s published, and help us ensure we can keep this thing running for the long term for as little as £3.75 per month. Please consider it if you can!
New exhibition at Chatham Dockyard has a full-size skeleton of a whale and Boaty McBoatface (KentLive). Brilliant stuff.
Cafe Nucleus are pondering a rooftop venture on top of Mountbatten House in Chatham (KentOnline). Because of course they are.
Medway Hospital is scrapping the requirement to wear masks in most parts of the hospital from next week (Medway Hospital). The hospital was one of the last places still acknowledging that we are living through a pandemic.
Care home, cafe, new Co-Op, and more are planned for Halling (KentLive). These are new versions of previously approved plans for the area, so look set to get the nod.
You can hire out the giant table in Rochester Cathedral for dinner (KentOnline). Local Authority night out, anyone?
Substack recently added a new chat feature, which I’ve switched on for Local Authority. They’ve had this option for a while but it was limited to users of the Substack app, which most of you don’t use. It’s now available via the web though, so try it out, introduce yourselves, and give us some feedback!
Tickets are flying for our local election debate taking place on April 19 at MidKent College. We’ve also received a lot of great questions to put to the speakers, but you can still submit yours when booking a free ticket. Don’t sleep on this if you intend on joining us as it seems increasingly likely this will be fully booked before the night itself.
If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, email me via email@example.com, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: We Love The City by Hefner, Too Much To Ask by Cheekface, and Cause a Stir by Charmpit.
The train prices are ridiculous 😭 Slight money saving tip if it helps though is to buy a Network Railcard and then get two split single tickets - so you buy a single up at full price and then a single return journey ticket with the railcard discount (because the railcard only works off peak - of course 🙄) The railcard costs £30 for a year but from Gillingham on the high speed for example this saves about £8 a day compared to just buying a return ticket (£43 vs £51) so you make your money back pretty quickly! You can't buy this on the machines but the staff can do it for you at the windows (or if there's no staff just literally buy the single up on the machine and then buy the single when you're in London on the way back). Seems silly that you have to make up your own split journey plans and they don't just sell you the best priced ticket as standard but there you go... 🤷♀️
Do the crime stats include 'Chatham pockets searched per annum'?