Saving UK Music Venues through the Agent of Change Principle

Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007

Photograph of Westminster by Diliff

The upcoming UK Parliament is tabling a motion to add the “agent of change” principle to the country’s planning legislation. As a primer, Chris Cooke of the Complete Music Update wrote of the agent of change principle and its potential effects that,

[T]he agent of change principle says that if a property developer constructs or converts a building next to a music venue, it must take responsibility for ensuring that the new development can co-exist with said venue, for example, paying for soundproofing if noise may be an issue for the new neighbours. It’s something that already exists in Australia, and is a principle that enjoyed much support during the #VoteForMusic survey of the music community ahead of the General Election earlier this year. The Musicians’ Union has also been lobbying hard for its introduction.

The major proponent of the bill is shadow culture secretary MP Michael Dugher, who has made it his first priority, citing that in the last eight year’s London has lost nearly half of all its live music venues. Part of the problem was a 2013 amendment that allowed disused buildings to be reverted to residences without permit, even if these residences end up being located nearby commercial enterprises that emit evening music or other noise.

The agent of change principle has already been applied by Australian governments to great effect, which has prevented new buildings and residents from moving into neighbourhoods with nightclubs or other music venues and making noise complaints about the previously installed venues. The application of this principle overturned previous laws where the club itself (even if established first) would have been responsible for noise insulation, rather than the onus being placed on the new incoming neighbourhood tenants.

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