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Music Venue Trust hits out at council after plan to save legendary venue Moles is rejected

“We believe the council’s position that Moles was not of value to the local community and did not contribute to the social wellbeing of Bath residents to be in error,"

By Nick Reilly

The exterior of Moles in Bath (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has criticised Bath and North East Somerset Council after it rejected a community plea to save the legendary music venue Moles.

The intimate venue closed its doors in December last year, having played host to early gigs from some of the world’s biggest musicians – with Fatboy Slim, The Smiths and Blur all passing through its doors.

In a statement shared on social media, venue operators explained how “huge rent rates, along with massively increased costs on everything from utilities to stock” were all reasons behind the closure. All future events at Moles have now been cancelled.

In the wake of the decision, the local community submitted an application to grant Asset Of Community Value status to Moles, but it has now been rejected by the council. Posting on social media yesterday (April 3), the MVT wrote said it was “saddened” by the decision.

“We believe the council’s position that Moles was not of value to the local community and did not contribute to the social wellbeing of Bath residents to be in error,” said the MVT.

“Unfortunately, the only people able to undo that error are the councillors who have made it, and we therefore see no available route to an appeal.”

According to Planning Aid England, a building is defined as an Asset Of Community Value “if its main use has recently been or is presently used to further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community and could do so in the future”.

“Once listed, if an Asset Of Community Value comes up for sale, the community have an opportunity to make a bid to purchase the asset,” a description adds.

The MVT added: “A comprehensive plan to bring Bath Moles back into operation which had been brought together by the local community, key stakeholders and Music Venue Trust cannot be taken forward as a result of this decision. Consequently the venue joins too many others across the country in being permanently lost.

“There is little purpose in government legislation intended to protect highly cherished cultural spaces such as Bath Moles if the decision making to enact such powers is devolved to local councils who refuse to understand the value of live music in our towns and cities.”

Moles owner Tom Maddicott added: “Very sad to announce that Bath and North East Somerset Council have put an end to any hope of reviving Moles.”

He continued: “A group of passionate locals had applied for the venue to be given Asset Of Community Value status. This would have given the venue some protection in the event of the building being sold and was the first step in the Music Venue Trust’s manifesto for Moles that showed a way for it to come back. Without it there is no chance.

“Everyone on Bath council who voted against this should be ashamed of themselves. They have essentially said that not only was it not of cultural importance to the city but also that live music in general has no value to the community and has no impact on social wellbeing.”

He added: “It probably won’t make much difference but if you are as angry as I am at this and you live in or around Bath please write to your local councillor and let them know how you feel #ripmoles.”

The closure came after the MVT previously warned that the UK was set to lose 10 per cent of its independent venues by the end of 2023.

The charity previously kickstarted a campaign called  #OwnOurVenues and now owns The Snug in Greater Manchester.