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UK Music urges local councils to act as agent of change guidelines published

By | Published on Wednesday 25 July 2018

UK Music

The boss of cross-sector trade body UK Music has written to the Chair of the Local Government Association about the good old ‘agent of change’ principle, which is now officially part of the UK government’s National Planning Policy Framework for England.

After a long campaign by the likes of the Music Venue Trust, Musicians’ Union and UK Music itself, the government announced earlier this year that agent of change would be added to its planning policy framework. This is the principle that puts the onus on property developers constructing new buildings next to existing music venues to ensure that there won’t be issues around noise that cause said venues licensing problems down the line.

The campaigning to get agent of change adopted resulted in Labour MP John Spellar proposing specific legislation in Parliament back in January. Shortly after that the Ministry Of Housing, Communities & Local Government said it would add the principle into planning guidelines anyway, without any new laws being passed. Those updated guidelines came into effect yesterday.

The key paragraph in the updated framework document reads: “Planning policies and decisions should ensure that new development can be integrated effectively with existing businesses and community facilities (such as places of worship, pubs, music venues and sports clubs). Existing businesses and facilities should not have unreasonable restrictions placed on them as a result of development permitted after they were established”.

It goes on: “Where the operation of an existing business or community facility could have a significant adverse effect on new development (including changes of use) in its vicinity, the applicant (or ‘agent of change’) should be required to provide suitable mitigation before the development has been completed”.

In his letter to the Local Government Association, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher notes the organisation’s support of Spellar’s proposals earlier this year. He then asks it to promote the new guidelines among its members, so that agent of change can be quickly adopted and implemented by those actually making property planning decisions around England.

Commenting on the new guidelines as they came into effect, Dugher also told reporters: “The introduction of agent of change in the NPPF marks a pivotal moment in the fight to protect under threat music venues. The government is to be congratulated for taking this decisive step. Too often music venues have been the victims of developers. This new law will help ensure music venues can continue to grow audiences and develop talent, contributing significantly to our £1 billion live music industry. This has been a long fought battle and it is vital that local authorities back it to save live music. There is now no excuse for local authorities for not stepping in to protect grassroots music venues”.

Meanwhile the aforementioned Spellar added: “I am delighted that the government has listened to concerns expressed by MPs and the music industry about the fate of music venues across the country, and has fulfilled its commitment to introduce the agent of change principle in the new National Planning Policy Framework by summer recess. This is great news for musicians and music lovers whose voice has been loud and has now been heard. Local authorities must now make use of these vital tools to support our world leading music creativity throughout our towns, cities and communities”.