Agent of Change Victory – Property Developers in England must allow for existing Music Venues to operate and co-exist

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Last week, on the 24th July, the Agent of Change Principle was introduced into the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England – a victory for grassroots venues, musicians and audiences. The MIA have long supported this important campaign and we were delighted to hear the news…

This news comes after years of campaigning from the Music Venues Trust – supported by organisations such as UK Music and the Musicians Union (MU), as well as MPs, music industry officials, artists and audiences.

Property developers are now responsible for ensuring that their plans allow for existing music venues to operate and co-exist. It also means that local authorities are now legally bound to comply with the NPPF, and therefore need to be mindful of the principle when considering planning applications.

MU General Secretary, Horace Trubridge said:

“This is great news for venues, musicians and audiences, who together have built up a world-famous live scene despite increasing obstacles and threats.

“Whilst this comes too late for some of the fantastic venues that have closed in recent years, we hope that the support is sufficient to allow current and future venues to not only exist but to thrive in the ever-changing environments that they’ve played a part in shaping.”

Grassroots venues valuable to both growing and established artists

Grassroots music venues have, for many decades, enabled artists to establish themselves, grow and connect with their fanbases.

Not only do they help emerging artists at the start of their career, but due to their charm and character they also attract high profile artists at the pinnacle of their popularity looking to perform intimate shows to just a fraction of their fanbase.

Many commercially successful artists continue to play in grassroots venues once they’re out of the spotlight, using them to keep their career on a steady and sustainable level.

Supporting venues under threat

The MU has been involved in supporting venues in numerous cases which have highlighted the need for change to the Government’s NPPF.

In 2014 Manchester venue Night & Day was subject to a license review, following a noise complaint from an occupant in a relatively new residential building nearby. Frustratingly, Night & Day had already raised objections to no avail during the planning stage of the residence, concerned that noise might be an issue.

It was a long and expensive process to secure the venue’s license again, albeit with a few new conditions.

On the same day, The Boileroom in Guildford also had a license hearing following noise complaints. They also retained their license, but with added conditions.

These stories attracted a lot of public interest, press attention and concern among the music industry. They marked the beginning of a four year campaign to introduce the kind of support that these venues should have had all along.

Origins of the Agent of Change Principle

A practical solution to how venues could be better protected was shown when the Agent of Change Principle was introduced into planning law by the state of Victoria, Australia in late 2014.

This example gave a glimmer of hope to grassroots communities facing similar issues across the world.

Governments in Scotland and Wales are also currently implementing the principle.