Headline reads: 'Say No To The HMO' on top of a darken image of The Castle Tavern in Luton with the subhead of 'Protect Live & Alternative Music in Luton. Oppose the HMO Application'


Our live music venue, The Castle, is under threat from an application to convert an old office building directly next door into a house of multiple occupations (HMO) – a bunch of bedsits in other words!

We know where this leads because we’ve seen it with music venues up and down the country and in our own town with the world-renowned jazz and blues venue, The Bear Club.

A host of tenants move in with no connection to the area, venue, music and cultural landscape, and no consideration for benefits to the night-time economy that a venue brings.

Once moved in, they complain to the council about the noise, despite knowing full well that they’ve moved in next door to a busy pub and music venue, right across the road from another much-loved pub, The Red Lion.

The Council have a duty to investigate noise complaints and their own website says: ‘If a noise nuisance is being caused, we can serve an abatement notice. The notice will require the noise to stop or be reduced. If the notice is not complied with, we can take the business to court or seize their music system.’

As we saw with The Bear Club, it was served a noise notice, which forced the venue to crowdfund hugely expensive modifications.

We can’t let this happen!!!

There does exist an ‘agent of change’ principle in national planning regulations, which should place the onus on a developer (i.e. an agent of change) to take responsibility against noise issues – but it shouldn’t even get to that point and we can’t take that risk. Bedsits in an old office building next door to a loud live music venue are just not appropriate.

The Castle Live, Luton The Castle is our spiritual home. It is the heart and soul of the independent and alternative music scene in our town.

Luton is not blessed with a dedicated music venue like smaller neighbours in Bedford, St Albans and Hitchin, but the team at The Castle have been gradually transforming this venue into a space Luton can be increasingly proud of.

As a music collective, we at Vandalism Begins at Home, were conceived in The Castle five years ago. The venue provided a home for our independently produced music and arts fanzine, the sole purpose of which was to sing loud and proud about the creatives in Luton and the surrounding towns.

From there, we’ve grown into a record label, new music podcast and live promoters, with a regular programme of gigs showcasing the up-and-coming talents that we truly believe in. Everything we do is about the music, a proud and passionate DIY ethos to help improve the town we love and make it a great place to live. And the central meeting point for all this creativity is The Castle.

We are by no means alone. We share the space with our friends at Luton Live/s Promotions and Castlefest UK, who have been fighting the good fight for even longer than us.

The Castle is a home and a vital live music lifeline to many, and it must not be threatened by yet more poorly planned housing developments.

As proud Lutonians we fight for what we believe in and we ask you to join us to help protect the home of alternative music in Luton.

Time is of the essence as we’ve only got until May 5th to act.

Here’s how you can help:


    This is the MOST IMPORTANT step. If you do nothing else, do this. A developer has applied to Luton Council for planning consent to create a HMO. You have until May 5th to register your objection at bit.ly/protectthecastle
    We’d like to write you a template letter that you can copy and paste, but objections will not carry the same weight if they are seen to have been written or produced in a standardised form.
    And it goes without saying that the council will not consider any objections which they think are libellous or offensive.
    There is also no point in putting things in your objection which are not relevant to planning, because by law the council can only consider the planning issues and must not allow themselves to be influenced by other considerations unless they really are relevant to planning.
    So, when you make your objection concentrate on those aspects of the proposed development which are likely to be unacceptable.
    Here are the things you can include in your objection that can be considered by the council:

    • Adherence to the ‘agent of change’ principle. The application for a HMO is next door to a live music venue in The Castle, and adjacent to a pub, The Red Lion.
    • Question whether the applicant has considered sound mitigations for the development of an HMO. The onus is on the developer here.
    • Risks to heritage buildings. Both 5 Castle Street (where the HMO is planned) and The Castle are Grade 2-listed buildings.
    • The loss of a Class E commercial space in our town centre.
    • Market Hill is a key area for Luton’s night-time economy.

    You can find out more about what you can and cannot comment on regards a planning application, plus more info on planning at Luton Council’s website

  2. Get on social media

    Once you’ve officially objected on the Luton Council website, you need to make your voice heard more publicly. We know that some of you have already posted about saying no to the HMO on your social media accounts. We need you to keep that up and post some more. Whether you have or haven’t yet posted on social media, here are 4 graphics that you can download and use to post on your social media pages (there are 4, so why not post 4 times, at least?)

    For maximum impact and shareability, use the hashtags #SayNoToTheHMO and/or #ProtectTheCastle and make sure you tag in:

    Here are some other prominent social media accounts to consider tagging:

    You’re not limited to tagging any of these accounts. If there are others you think could help share and get the message out there, tag them in too.
    But be polite and respectful. Developers are allowed to make planning applications, so the council and councillors have done nothing wrong on this matter…. but they are influential figures and our political representatives so it’s important to let them know your reasoned views and objections to the proposed HMO and why you think Luton Council should reject this planning application.
    While time is short on officially objecting on Luton Council’s website, with the May 5th deadline, you can keep voicing your opinion on social media beyond this date, until the planning application has been decided.

  3. Social media…but even better!

    Graphics are great, but this fight is about people and live music, not buildings and proposals for yet more bedsits.
    Let’s not pretend you’re not out there filming yourself and posting it all over social media. We’re all at it and it’s a very powerful tool and you’re very beautiful people.
    So, show your face and let us hear your actual voice. Film a short video message – the more creative the better – of you saying why you care about the future of live music in our town, why you love The Castle and why The Castle needs to be protected from this proposed HMO.
    Use the phrases ‘Say No To The HMO’ and ‘Protect The Castle’ and hashtag your posts with the same #SayNoToTheHMO and #ProtectTheCastle while also, for maximum shareability, tagging:

    You’re not limited to tagging any of these accounts. If there’s one you think could help and share get the message out there, tag them in too.
    While time is short on officially objecting on Luton Council’s website, with the May 5th deadline, you can keep voicing your opinion on social media beyond this date, until the planning application has been decided.

  4. Write to your local politicians

    Use this link to write to your current local Labour Luton South ward councillors all at once, or their individual emails to write to them separately:

    You can also write to your local MP Rachel Hopkins at rachel.hopkins.mp@parliament.uk with your concerns about the HMO and the effect that planning consent would have on The Castle.
    There are local elections coming on May 4th, so while we won’t tell you who to vote for, we’ll be using ours to vote for candidates that want to protect vital cultural and live music assets and help the night-time economy to thrive.

The Castle Live, Luton

So, there are 4 big ways in which you can Say NO to the HMO. Don’t forget that the first one is the most important, and that will earn your hero status, but if you can do all 4 then you’ll be a legend too!

For the purposes of clarity, we’re not anti-growth or anti-housing and we welcome newcomers to our town, but those newcomers might just want to have access to great grassroots live alternative music, so let’s make sure The Castle is here for the long haul doing what it does best – making a hell of a racket!