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Lords call for extension of agent of change principle

By | Published on Wednesday 5 April 2017

Houses Of Parliament

Cross-sector trade group UK Music yesterday welcomed recommendations made by a House Of Lords select committee on the licensing of live events, and in particular a call to extend the much talked about agent of change principle.

As previously reported, this is the rule that if a developer puts a new residential property next to an existing live music venue, they must take responsibility for ensuring there will be no resulting noise issues once the new residents move in.

The principle aims to overcome the phenomenon where the cultural community revitalises an area of a town or city, property developers then capitalise on that by building new flats, and then complaining residents in those new properties cause licensing headaches for the venues that enticed them to that part of town in the first place.

The Lords committee that has been reviewing the licensing rules that impact on gigs and venues said that the 2012 Live Music Act – which aimed to simplify the licensing process for smaller gigs – was working largely as intended. They also said that the appointment of ‘night czars’ in cities to focus on the local night-time economy – like London’s Amy Lamé – was a good thing.

In terms of proposed changes, extending the agent of change principle was a key recommendation. The UK government has actually already committed to boost agent of change style protections via the National Planning Policy Framework, though the Lords recommendation – if followed – could further protect venues from new property developments resulting in noise complaints.

The Lords also proposed that the ‘late night levy’ – an extra tax local authorities can charge licensed premises which open late into the night – should be abolished. The parliamentary report argued that the levy, where employed, was a burden on pubs and clubs, and wasn’t contributing to local policing costs as had been originally intended.

Welcoming the report, UK Music boss Jo Dipple said: “UK Music asks government to take forward the Lords suggestion that a full ‘agent of change’ principle for planning and licensing guidance be introduced. If implemented, recommendations to introduce an agent of change principle and ditch the late night levy will make a big difference to the provision of music across the UK’s cities and regions”.

However, Dipple noted that one new measure her organisation has been lobbying for was not backed in the report. That’s the proposal that ‘cultural benefit’ be added as a criteria for consideration when local councils are reviewing event licensing applications. Lord Tim Clement-Jones proposed adding that extra criteria via the Policing And Crime Bill last year, but the government argued that it wasn’t necessary.

On that proposal, which is not backed in the new Lords report, Dipple said: “A proposed ‘fifth objective’ for licensing decisions, which would enable local authorities to weigh up positive cultural impacts, would also have helped [the provision of live music] and it is a pity the committee did not accept this”.