Sir Paul backs the ‘agent of change’ law

February 2018

Live events sector


Artists and music industry leaders joined politicians in Westminster to support the ‘agent of change’ principle as John Spellar MP presented his bill to Parliament in a legislative move which if successful would change UK planning law so that property developers putting new residential buildings close to existing music venues would be responsible for identifying and resolving any future sound issues.

This agent of change proposals, which attracted a message of support from Sir Paul McCartney, aims to ensure that music venues are protected from new arrivals who move into an area. The former Beatle was joined by Brian Eno, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, The Kinks’ Ray Davies in backing a plan to stop the closure of grassroots venues after more than a third were said to have closed in the past decade, according to research by UK Music.

In his speech to Parliament Spellar said: “I accept that there is a variety of reasons for the decline in venues, but many relate to changes in the neighbourhood, increasingly when redundant commercial or industrial premises are converted to residential, or are knocked down and rebuilt, or as empty sites are developed” adding “Of course, much of that is very welcome. It is part of the regeneration of our inner cities, restoring their historic vibrancy and creating much-needed homes. However, it can sometimes lead to the loss of what makes parts of those areas attractive in the first place, especially to younger residents”.

Spellar confirmed “My short bill is a modest and focused measure that would adopt the principle of agent of change into planning law. That basically means that when buildings are converted to residential use or a new development is put up, the onus is on the developer – not the venue – to ensure that the new dwellings are protected from factors, particularly noise, that could be held to affect their general amenity and enjoyment”.

He went on: “Less venues means less work and less opportunity to develop talent – or even for musicians to find out that they are not going to make it in the industry. It also means less opportunity to move up from amateur to part-time to full-time professional, and to national or even international stardom. I was talking today to Billy Bragg, who mentioned that he tried three times to move from having an ordinary job and working part-time to being a full-time musician. It was the existence of the clubs, pubs and venues that enabled him finally to make it on to the national stage”.

The Music Venue Trust commented: “John Spellar MP’s bill was read in Parliament and no objections were raised. A huge list of sponsors of the bill accompanied the first reading, meaning that this can now progress to a second reading”. Chief executive of UK Music and former Labour MP Michael Dugher said the cross-party backed Bill was an “SOS to ministers to act and act urgently”.

It is highly unlikely the bill will pass into law. However, ministers had previously expressed support for agent of change and members of the All Party Parliamentary Group For Music recently urged the government to back Spellar’s proposals.


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