The UK’s grassroots network has been handed a “tremendous boost” after the Government backed plans to enshrine the "Agent of Change" principle in law to protect venues from developers.
Following negotiations led by UK Music, housing secretary Sajid Javid has promised major changes to nationwide planning policies.
“Music venues play a vital role in our communities, bringing people together and contributing to the local economy and supporting the country’s grass roots music culture," said Javid.
“I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby.
“That’s why I consulted on this in February last year as part of the Housing White Paper. I am pleased to finally have an opportunity to right this wrong and also give more peace of mind to new residents moving into local properties.”
The move comes after Labour MP and former Government minister John Spellar tabled a proposed new law in the House of Commons, which would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses before going ahead with their plans.
“This is a seismic victory for all those who fought so hard to safeguard the future of music venues across the UK - from grassroots community activists to Britain’s global music stars who have spent years calling for Agent of Change and recently supported the Spellar Bill,” said UK Music CEO Michael Dugher.
“We are delighted the Government has thrown its support behind our Agent of Change plan and is strengthening the rules to protect grassroots music venues. It’s a tremendous boost for the live music industry.”
“Music makes a huge contribution to our country, bringing enjoyment to millions and contributing £4.4 billion to our economy. Supporting grassroots venues is key to maintaining the UK's vibrant and diverse music scene, as well as ensuring we have the talent pipeline to maintain Britain’s position as a global force in music.”
MPs, artists and music industry executives congregated in Westminster last Wednesday to back the move. Among the acts who came to the event to show there support were: Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Feargal Sharkey, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Billy Bragg, Jeremy Pritchard (Everything Everything), The Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock and Tom Gray (Gomez).
“UK Music will continue to campaign on other key issues that affect venues like licensing and business rates to make sure British music is protected, strengthened and nurtured for the future.
“It’s great that Ministers have listened and are prepared to work with UK Music and others from the industry, including the Music Venue Trust, to make sure grassroots venues get the support and protections they need.”
Over the past decade 35% of music venues across the country have closed. Among the venues that had to fight closure threats in the past are London’s Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Venues that face similar threats today include Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece.
“I am delighted that the Government have listened to grassroots venues and campaigners that have supported the safeguards contained in my Planning Bill,” said Spellar. “This announcement is fantastic news. While we need to iron out the final details when considering the draft framework, there is a real hope that these new provisions could be law by the summer.”
UK Music’s plan to save venues was supported by at least 100 MPs and peers including former culture minister Ed Vaizey, as well as organisations such as the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians’ Union.