Stepney landlady wins legal fight to make noise

London buses Stepney in LondonA pub landlady in Stepney, East London has won a landmark victory to prevent people who will live in an unbuilt development from complaining in the future about noise pollution.

The Grade II listed George Tavern is a 700 year old traditional public house that was referred to in literature by Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer and Samuel Pepys. The historic building has become a renowned music venue, public house and heart of a thriving artistic community in the east end of London. The public house is run by accomplished artist, Pauline Forster, and has become a firm favourite with showbiz stars.

It was feared that plans to build a six storey block of flats nearby would have a detrimental effect on any future gigs by limiting the number of performances or even be a threat to the licence. The building of flats nearby could also have affected the amount of light filtering into the upstairs windows which have been used for photo shoots with celebrities such as Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton.

However, in a turn of events that is most unusual, the landlady has won the legal right to ‘make noise’ after receiving support from planning chiefs at Tower Hamlets Council. The  easement agreement has been passed for only the second time in the UK, the first being granted to the Ministry of Sound nightclub.

The landlady called the agreement ‘a real victory’ for other music venues that might otherwise be threatened from future residential developments.

The George public house has previously received support from celebrities, after a ten year fight with Swan Housing threatened the building. Kate Moss, Sir Ian McKellen, Justin Timberlake, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones and actor Charlie Heaton all gave their support.

Whoever lives in any adjacent properties built in the future will have to be aware of potential noise and accept it. The property developers said they were happy with the outcome and wanted to work with the landlady to protect the public house for years to come. A spokesman said: “The existing site is derelict, and has been vacant for years. The scheme provides new commercial space, new homes and affordable housing in a high quality building”.

Is noise pollution something to consider when looking at property?

Pauline was concerned that she would lose her late night licence if she received complaints from new neighbours once the flats were completed. It is not unheard of for disputes over noise to cause loss of livelihood or result in having to move home, so can anything be done about it?

There is no doubt that environmental noise can be harmful to health and reduce domestic quality of life. In fact, environmental noise is a main cause of sleep disorders and can contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. 

There are rules and regulations regarding acceptable noise levels around homes and other noise sensitive buildings such as public venues and hospitals. These rules can only be exceeded if an official exemption is given by the council and courts, as in this case. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 limits noise levels that constitute “statutory nuisances”. This indicates the upper levels of noise to which people in houses can be exposed. Only in rare cases can this be excepted. Find out how councils deal with noise complaints.

If you are an aspiring business owner looking to invest in property, it is worthwhile investigating your surrounding area for anything that might be affected by noise pollution. If a potential problem arises, discuss it with your local council and learn your legal rights.

Read another noise pollution article: Gospel choir fined for torturous singing

Four years of Sunday services and evening practices proved too much for neighbours of the New Generation Church in David Lane, Old Basford, Nottingham, whose pastor has now paid the price.


Investing in property with lots of history, such as The George? Ask a Chartered Surveyor to provide you with a Building Survey (formerly known as a Structural Survey).

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