Spotted Dog served with Noise Abatement Notice

John Tighe of The Spotted Dog pub and venue in Digbeth has been issued with a Noise Abatement Notice following three complaints from the nearby Abacus housing development. As he writes on The Stirrer’s message board this is the first time in 22 years he’s had such a complaint and expects it will seriously affect his business.

Two issues leap out. The first is that Noise Abatement Notices can be imposed based on a tiny number of complaints, do not take other opinions into account, do not require the use of monitoring equipment and do not appear to be appealable.

The more critical point is that the existing nature of Digbeth was never taken in account when the development was first planned. I did a bit of digging around and found this article from 2005 on a property investment site:

“But [residential agency] Knight Frank reports that after decades of decline, the time has come for the huge success of Bullring and the emerging city living community around the Arcadian and Chinese Quarter to ripple out to the dormant heart of Digbeth.” (my emphasis)

Then there’s this piece of business news from the Post in 2004, quoting Tony Corbett, director of the Abacus project:

We didn’t know the first thing about the area, even in terms of who owned the land, and it was clearly going to involve significant resources.”

Though to be fair they then went on to work closely with the Council and other agencies. Which is where it all gets messy.

John Tighe’s contention is that the council planning department did not take into account existing Public Entertainment Licenses when they gave the wonderfully named Concept Development Solutions the go-ahead. As he writes:

Of one thing I am certain – that I was never asked what were the terms of my licence. No interest seems to have been taken in the fact that The Spotted Dog was licensed for music until 2.00 am on Saturday and Sunday and 12.30 am Monday, which is surprising in view of the fact that we have been conducting live music events here for years.

However, this apparent dereliction of duty is more than adequately explained in Mr Dutton’s letter. After informing me of the procedures of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) he states that he “is mindful of [my] concerns, however, the City Council cannot legally provide any exceptions to this legal requirement and if complaints are received, they will need to be investigated, and any noise nuisance mitigated against”.

Thus it would seem to be clear that no consideration was made for the potential environmental noise associated with The Spotted Dog. Inadequate sound insulation was recommended, at further financial benefit to the developer, and Mr Dutton and the developers could sleep soundly knowing that EHD would be on hand to counteract their dereliction. The fact that it results in the closure of The Spotted Dog, one of the reasons that people move into the area and an integral part of the widely-touted Irish Quarter as well as being the venue for the initial discussions that resulted in the concept of the Irish Quarter, will prove to be irrelevant once the developer has maximised his profits.

He then goes on to speculate where this will lead.

  • Spotted Dog is prevented from being viable because of a minority of people.
  • Having set the precedent, the minority pick-off The Rainbow and Adam and Eve.
  • The Medicine Bar
  • The Sanctuary
  • Air, will all be targeted quite easily. None of these places will survive if, occasionally, accepted noise levels are not allowed to be exceeded.
  • The area will be left desolate, with none of its former vibrant, flakey character. It will comprise thousands of residents living in mean, lifeless streets who will be wondering “Whatever happened to that terrific, lively, Irish Quarter that Concept Development Solutions and The Council promised us, with the leafy boulevards and exciting squares?”

Tomorrow is Rootsville where there will be live music being played at a significant volume outside from 12 noon til 6am. A fortnight later is Supersonic. In November Gigbeth are planning to shut the High Street and erect a massive stage in the middle of it, close to the Custard Factory and the Spotted Dog. And that’s just some of the big things going on.

The issue here is that a precedent is set in place. Digbeth was not a dead zone before the residential development started. It already had the seeds of a vibrant community that were, if you’ll excuse the metaphor, fertilised by the low rents and blind eye from the Council. But I don’t think there’s a conscious desire form the powers that plan to wipe it all away. I genuinely think they don’t realize it’s there, or if they do they don’t understand how it works. We need to teach them.

The person at the council directly responsible for this particular case is Clive Dutton. That link takes you to his profile on the BCC site and his email is Beyond that Adrian at The Stirrer is running a campaign and I’m sure others will emerge.

More on this as it develops.

A Quiet Digbeth
Let’s Start A Campaign


  1. “Beyond that Adrian at The Stirrer claims to be running a campaign but I haven’t seen any concrete signs of one yet. Maybe it’s in the planning stages.”

    Glad to see the spirit of secpticism is still alive!

    The campaign is up and runing by virtue of the fact that on The Stirrer website ( we’ve inititated this story, done a substantial follow up today ahead of any other news organisation ( and ensured coverage in the Birmingham Mail.

    Dunno if that looks like a campaign to you, but it sure feels like one to us – and it feels like that to John Tighe at the Spotted Dog as well.

    Our wesbite has previously helped keep Fred Grove in his Eastside home against city council wishes and maintained an out of our doctors surgery in South Birmingham when the proposal was to move it town.

    We want to work witn people to help keep Digbeth as vibrant as it is, but we could do without the snipes.

  2. I’m sick of this sort of problem coming up again and again. i have had to deal with this on many occassions. The Answer is simple, continue to make noise and request the police turn up with an environmental health officer with a decibel counter or noisemeter or whatever they call it to measure the noise with. First of all stand on the other side of the road and record the sounds coming from the venue that the residents of the housing development seem to be complaining about. the reading will be around 60 decibels at worse or less. Get the police officer to make a not and the environmental health officer too. Then record the sound of a passing car on the road or even a bus. the noise will be around 80 decibels or more. problem solved. the traffic will always be louder than the carry of any sound from the venue. What is often the case in situations like this is the local residents are irritated by the sound of repeating beats or noises that stop and start but they hardly notice passing traffic as to them it is more of a drone. I suggest The Spotted Dig just needs to get on with it and try not to worry, the traffic will be louder than any noise they produce.

  3. I’m no expert but I believe it’s more about the nature of the sound than the simple dB level. Yes, you can live with the constant drone of traffic but a floor-shaking bass, even if it’s quieter, will be more disturbing. I guess it’s like a dripping tap keeping you awake.

  4. That may be true but the recorded noise level is what matters and sadly for the residents who have complained, in law, they won’t get far if it can be demonstrated beyond any doubt that passing traffic is louder. I have some good Lawyer contacts to offer the spotted Dog if the residents who have complained want to take it further. In The meantime perhaps the Spotted Dog could acknowledge them if they make themselves known and request them to keep the communication going so as to resolve the issue amicably for the benefit of all involved. Sometimes a friendly chat and a voluntary agreement to consider each others needs may achieve more results

  5. I fear that the neo-residents would speak up if a bat or grasshopper farted or had a small coughing episode.

    Welcome to the city; welcome to the quarter which is the epitome of spirit and noise, albeit visual, audible or downright multisensory.

    Yum! What a soundtrack to wind down to….

  6. If I were to rent or buy a home beside a canal would it then be logical for me to ask it be filled in. Perhaps I could claim that I was living in fear that my cat/dog/child/self may fall in and drown. Perhaps the chug chug chug of passing narrow boats was a real annoyance. If the sound of the sea breaking on the shore troubled you, don’t go and live by the sea.

    I find it difficult to understand how someone who is able to write a letter of complaint or telephone unaided, could not have seen that there was a community spirited, musically orientated pub on the opposite corner. I have been aware of the music and fabulous charity fund raising events that have taken place at or based from the dog. The complainant must have lived under a very big stone in previous abode not to have similar knowledge. They only had to ask. Pre-contract searches and enquiries would reveal such matters.

  7. John Tighe

    Thanks for your support (I’m the licensee of The Spotted Dog). Unfortunately your link above is to the other Spotted Dog, a venue that is well worth a visit if you like live music. Alas, when the developers turn their rapacious gaze on their part of Digbeth, that Spotted Dog will face the same fate as mine. Coffee house? Wine bar? Tesco? Another venue for young bands will bite the dust. We’ve been rolled over for too long by a Council (of whichever hue) which only works efficiently in one sphere -ENFORCEMENT. Isn’t it time to rise up and say “Enough”?

  8. John Tighe

    Cheers Pete, I did construct a website a number of years ago and whilst attempting to up-load it sent it to somewhere left of Jupiter. I know now that when Frontpage asked me for the second time “Do you really, really want to delete and send it, forever, to the left of Jupiter?” I should not have pressed “Yes”. 150 hours of work down the drain! 60-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed near these machines. an on-line petition in support of The Dog is getting interesting. It’s hosted by an Abacus resident, Adam Crossley (long may he have a drink problem).

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