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MPs back campaign to have ‘agent of change’ principle introduced into UK law

By | Published on Friday 24 November 2017

UK Music

UK Music has launched a new campaign attempting to convince Parliament to enshrine the ‘agent of change’ principle into law. If successful, it would put the onus on property developers to design new buildings in a way that ensures future residents do not have problems with existing nearby music venues, particularly in relation to noise.

Many live music venues in the UK have run into problems after new residential developments have been built nearby. This is usually because of a lack of consideration by developers for other existing businesses surrounding their new properties at the planning stage, which in turn leads to noise complaints from new residents after they move in.

The so called ‘agent of change’ principle – increasing the obligations of the developers which bring new properties into an existing community – has been much discussed in UK political circles in recent years, including in relation to the National Planning Policy Framework. There has been plenty of support for the principle, though the devil is in the detail. And earlier this year, UK Music expressed disappointment that agent of change did not appear in the Queen’s Speech setting out the current government’s post-election priorities.

Labour MP John Spellar has now agreed to put forward an agent of change proposal at a debate in the House Of Commons early next year. Former Conservative Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and All-Party Parliamentary Group On Music Chair David Warburton have also endorsed the idea. Meanwhile, current Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has hinted that the government is already considering implementing the principle.

“In order to progress their careers, creative artists need lots of work opportunities”, Spellar told Bradley this week. “For musicians, that means venues, many of which are now being closed. Will the Secretary Of State give serious consideration to embedding the agent of change principle into legislation, as I hope to propose in a ‘ten minute rule bill’ in the near future?”

Bradley replied: “We are aware of those concerns and we are working with the Department For Communities And Local Government to look at the proposition that has been put forward”. That the government is seemingly already considering introducing an agent of change rule is important, as it has much more chance of becoming law if it is pushed through by ministers.

Lending his support, Vaisey said in a statement: “In order for our creative industries to continue to flourish, it is essential that we do all we can to protect our country’s brilliant grassroots venues. These venues are the lifeblood of the UK music scene, a source of immense pride for communities and a springboard for many artists’ success. Adopting agent of change into existing planning laws is therefore an important step in safeguarding the future of these vital platforms”.

Warburton added: “Putting the agent of change principle firmly into law is simple common sense. Any new development, whether it’s a residential project near a music venue, or a music venue opening next to properties, should be responsible for the costs of protecting against the noise – because they’re the ones making the change to the environment”.

He continued: “It’s crazy that you can build right next door to a music venue and then demand they pay for the soundproofing you need. A huge number of popular venues are facing closure because the law just isn’t working fairly – so it’s now time to make a change and stand up for common sense”.