Arts and Culture

Manchester’s flagship new venue Co-op Live in tense wait for license

Co-op Live, Manchester’s newest arena, has promised to be the UK’s ‘largest and most expensive’ indoor music venue – but has yet to acquire a new premises license from the city council.

Last week, the venue announced their curtain-raiser: comedian Peter Kay will perform on the 23rd of April, setting the tone for the 23,500 capacity stadium which promises to be capable of ‘attracting the best events in the world’.

However, councillors at Manchester City Council are still deliberating over the venue’s license application, after a fiery committee hearing –lasting over two days – ended with no imminent conclusion.

Co-op Live are confident that they will be able to address a number of issues pertaining to transport, smoking policy and concerns of local residents.

Inside the Committee

The committee considered at least 48 different representations objecting to Co-op Live’s application, with 39 of those directly from residents living near the site.

A key issue was transport to and from the venue. Co-op Live implied that there would be a fit-for-purpose shuttle bus service to and from the venue, to help reduce the impact of fans on local services.

However, flaws were pointed out and there appears to be no concrete plan in place for this service, with the Co-op Live’s operations director Sarah Roberts vaguely suggesting the destination of these buses ‘will depend on the event’.

Local residents shared that they are worried about the influx of private cars – concerned that their parking spots might be up for grabs.

Currently the closest tram services to the arena operate trams every 12 minutes, and past midnight, every 24 minutes – meaning only three trams service the area late.

That would be insufficient with the venue hoping for highs of almost 6000 attendees to remain until a 2:00am close on a weekend.

Gary Grant, a lawyer representing the interests of the AO Arena, Manchester’s current flagship venue, argued that by his research: “45% of customers will use motorised private vehicles at night.”

This number will only be exacerbated by uncertainty about alternative late night transport.

Co-op Live claims it will provide ‘fan sustainable travel enhancements’ but fears are that without a reliable shuttle service – and due to the relative isolation of the venue – there will likely be an increase in private car usage.

This lack of planning also jeopardises Co-op Live’s commitment to being the “most sustainable arena in the UK, and one of the most sustainable in the world.”

Furthermore, objections were heard from the city’s public health representatives, who took issue with the venue’s mixed messaging on their smoking and vaping policy.

The committee found that the ‘proposal is unacceptable’ claiming that there was ‘a difference between can’t and won’t’ in reference to Co-op Live’s attempts to hold on to their vapes.

A site-wide cigarette ban had already been confirmed, but the vaping policy was poorly defined. Initial plans restricted vaping to the concourse areas, keeping the auditorium bowl vape-free.

The committee heard that the space had a ‘significant amount of extraction,’ capable of removing ‘70,000 cubic metres of air’; A last-ditch attempt to get the committee on board with vaping.

Co-op Live took issue with the resistance of their rival the AO Arena to their vaping policy, arguing their objection was motivated by competition, not health concerns, and that the AO Arena had different requirements.

The rebuttal came when Mr Grant asked public health if they ‘would welcome the decision that the AO Arena will ban all smoking products in March’ This question caused audible murmurs among the Co-op Live contingent.

The second day began with Co-op Live’s barrister, Jeremy Phillips stating: “We are reluctant to accept the condition from public health.”

Overnight, they conceded that they would have to ban vapes from the venue completely, U-turning on their hopes of selling and marketing vaping products within the venue.

Councillors are still deliberating on the decision, with an outcome expected in the next two days.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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1 March 2024 2:56 pm

A very informative and enjoyable read. Will this be out for newspaper distribution. If not it should be . Well done

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