Could the ‘agent of change’ principle finally become UK law?

January 2016

Live events Sector


The live music sector has welcomed amendments to the UK’s Planning Bill which would introduce the ‘agent of change’ principle into UK law on a statutory basis. The amendments are planned to be debated this week as part of the Public Bill Committee consideration of the Housing And Planning Bill in the House of Commons.


When Labour’s Michael Dugher  became shadow culture secretary, one of the first issues he raised was the plight of small music venues. Of the 430 that traded in London between 2007 and 2015, only 245 remain open. At the Music Trust’s Venue Day 2015, Dugher, renowned for his love of karaoke, warned: “There is a real crisis at the moment and that’s why we need a national strategy to support small music venues before many more shut.”


The agent of change principle ensures that a new development must shoulder responsibility for compliance when situated near an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in a residential area, it too would be responsible for complying with residential requirements.


Jo Dipple, CEO, UK Music, said: “Grassroots music venues are under threat. They are closing. These venues are the hands that hold the heart of the British music industry. Without them there are no hubs for creativity, stages for talent or homes for emerging artists. These small and grassroots venues create a platform for our industry, one that contributes £4.1 billion to the UK economy. I am incredibly grateful to Michael Dugher MP and John Healey MP who recognise that something needs to give. Their leadership in this matter is welcome. I urge Government to support the introduction of these amendments into law.”


Mark Davyd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, commented: “We welcome this important opportunity to take a common sense approach to Housing and Planning. Grassroots music venues are culturally significant spaces, incubating UK music talent at the very earliest stage of their careers. By adopting agent of change principles, we not only ensure these spaces are protected, we also contribute to the development of higher quality residential development in towns and cities. Residents and culture can happily co-exist in our towns and cities, and Agent of Change is a simple supporting measure that encourages that outcome.”


Dave Webster, national organiser live performance, Musicians’ Union, added: “This amendment, if carried will help to ensure the many venues supporting live music and  providing community assets across the UK can continue to exist. Relaxation of planning laws allowing inner city, often redundant commercial buildings, to be turned into residential accommodation has in many cases adversely affected venues nationwide.”


Paul Reed, general manager, Association of Independent Festivals, said: “We fully support the introduction of the agent of change principle in the UK. It is a very common sense mechanism and has already been adopted in Australia. This would ensure protection for both grassroots venues and residents. The simple fact is, it would be impossible to create the festival headliners of tomorrow without the grassroots venues that enable emerging artists to develop and hone their craft”.


Andy Lenthall, general manager, Production Services Association, commented: “A healthy supply of music venues is not only important for musicians to hone their craft, it is essential for the continued supply of new technicians to add to our world class supply of backstage support for live music. The Production Services Association, as the representative body for these technicians, welcome any move designed to protect the venues that are crucial to our sector.

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