Dedicated to the Business of Contemporary Live Music

Venue protection is to be enshrined in planning policy

2 February 2018
L-R: SWG3's Andrew Fleming-Brown, DF's Geoff Ellis and Sub Club's Mike Grieve

L-R: SWG3’s Andrew Fleming-Brown, DF’s Geoff Ellis and Sub Club’s Mike Grieve

THE AGENT of Change principle, which serves to protect noise-generating cultural venues from the impact of building developments, is to be incorporated into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Following discussions led by music industry umbrella group UK Music and other bodies, the Government’s Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has agreed that detailed reference to Agent of Change will be made in NPPF, with which local authorities are legally bound to comply.

It means developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any sound problems and prevent music venues, community and sports clubs and churches, from facing potential noise complaints from new residents.

“I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby,” says Javid.

John Spellar

The breakthrough came after former Labour Government minister John Spellar MP unveiled his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill to Parliament in early January.

“While we need to iron out the final details when considering the draft framework, there is a real hope that these new provisions could be law by the summer,” says Spellar.

UK Music says the legislation could help protect venues currently at risk from developments, citing Bristol’s Thekla (400) and The Fleece (450), as examples.

Although the developer behind plans to build new flats close to Thekla has played down any fears (see LIVE UK issue 215), while rising business rates are of more pressing concern to The Fleece than any development.

“This is a seismic victory for all those who fought so hard to safeguard the future of music venues across the UK – from grassroots community activists to Britain’s global music stars who have spent years calling for Agent of Change and recently supported the Spellar Bill,” says UK Music CEO Michael Dugher.

Meanwhile, a number of venues in Scotland, including Glasgow’s O2 Academy (2,500), King Tut’s Wah

Michael Dugher

Wah Hut (300) and Sub Club (410), are calling for Agent of Change to be introduced there, as currently the onus falls on venues to reduce their impact on any new development. They are urging people to contact their Local Government Committee.

“Our venues are vital, they’re incubators for future headline acts and bring communities together through live concerts,” says Geoff Ellis, CEO of Glasgow-based promoter DF Concerts and Events, which owns King Tuts.

“We’re asking for the public, venue owners, people working in the creative industries, and everyone who wants to protect these venues to work with us in pushing for Agent of Change.”

In Edinburgh, Studio 24 (600) closed last May, blaming noise complaints and council restrictions, while Sneaky Pete’s (100) has spent £20,000 on soundproofing to counter complaints.

An application to build a hotel next to King Tuts has recently been granted and plans for three flats nearby are currently in the pipeline.

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