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It's red tape that may stop the music at Mill

PUBLISHED: 11:13 18 February 2011 | UPDATED: 11:13 18 February 2011

Katherine and Andy Waters at Loddon Mill Arts.
Photo: Andy Darnell

Katherine and Andy Waters at Loddon Mill Arts. Photo: Andy Darnell

Archant © 2011

A COUPLE who run a small number of successful arts events from their Norfolk home each year might have to call time on the venture because of a wrangle over red tape.

Andy and Katherine Walter have put on comedy and music nights in Loddon for over a year under a temporary events notice obtained from South Norfolk Council under the Licensing Act.

The events have proved a big success and the couple, who have links to the London music industry, often attract big-name acts to The Mill House.

The temporary events notice allows the Walters to run 12 events a year.

Last year they ran 11 from a studio which adjoins their laundry room and seats about 100 people.

But the couple were shocked when the district council informed them they may need planning permission as running the events could constitute a change of use of the building.

The couple have taken up the issue with communities secretary Eric Pickles and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Walters said it was not until last November that they were told they could need planning permission and they say the costs associated with a change of use may mean it is simply not viable to continue.

The couple, who have four children, say they do not profit from the events but simply cover their costs.

Mrs Walter said the intimate nature of the venue attracted professional artists and the audience also enjoyed watching big-name acts in the comfort of a rural home environment.

The couple are calling for the regulations to be made more transparent and say that despite seeking advice from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport the answer is not clear.

Mr Walter said: “It was never flagged up to us. Everyone said we didn’t need planning permission, just a temporary events notice.

“When I spoke to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport I was told that there were 187,000 temporary events notices issued last year and the person I spoke to had not heard of any that required planning permission.

“We have fallen into a grey area.

“The government needs to make this clearer to everyone. It may not be cost-effective to do it any more if we need planning permission.”

The couple said the district council had been helpful and that they would respect their decision.

They added: “We feel that this is also an important national issue that affects anyone holding temporary events. “It doesn’t sit well with David Cameron’s Big Society vision.

“At a time when arts funding is being cut across the country, amateur and professional enthusiasts lawfully arranging events face the potential of expensive bureaucracy.

“We love bringing entertainment every month to this wonderful community and hosting it here in our home.”

The couple are calling for support from local people and say they have been delighted by the response.

A South Norfolk Council spokesman said: “The council is currently investigating the need for planning permission and on March 1 we will be meeting the owner of The Mill House in Loddon to discuss the way forward with him.”

For more information visit loddonmillarts.co.uk

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