What is the Agent of Principle? What does it mean for our music venues?
“Agent of Change” is a term used to describe various approaches to controlling the relationship between new built developments (typically residential), and extant noise sources (typically, music venues).
The agent of Change Principle encapsulates the position that a person or business (i.e. the agent) introducing a new land use is responsible for managing the impact of that change. The practical issue that has arisen on occasion is that in circumstances where residents move into an area where noise is emanating from e.g. a long-standing music venue, may have resulted in the Local Planning Authority (LPA) imposing additional licensing restrictions on the established licensed venue. This can often mean that a venue has to change the way it operates, impacting on the type of music it can feature and the hours it can open, which will almost always result in a reduction in revenue.
In relation to live music venues, the Agent of Change principle effectively means that if a music venue is in place before a proposed residential development, then the developer would be responsible for ensuring that any noise from the music venue was not detrimental to any of the occupants of the new residential development. This could include having to provide the necessary funding for suitable sound insulation within the new build and/or in the venue itself.
To be clear, the principle would also apply if the venue itself was the ‘agent’ and in that the case the onus would be on the venue to mitigate any potential noise issues.
In September 2019 Liverpool City Council formally adopted the “Agent of Change” principle, to protect established clubs and concert halls in the instance where they may be at risk from new residential developments.
The Liverpool City Region Music Board (established in 2018) has been continuously endorsing the Agent of Change Principle, lobbying hard on behalf of the sector for the principle to be adopted and enforced rigorously by all the city region local authorities.
Kevin McManus said: “We are justifiably viewed as a music city across the world, but to live up to this designation we need to protect our current assets, like our brilliant independent venues, as well as our magnificent music heritage.”
“It was a positive move by Liverpool City Council to formally announce that they would adopt the Agent of Change principle, particularly in relation to music venues. However, it is, as the name suggests a non-legislative guidance principle rather than planning law, so not mandatory; for this reason it must be adopted by all planning authorities for it to have an effect. As a Music Board will be asking all local authorities to not just adopt the Agent of Change Principle but to ensure that it is implemented effectively whenever it is appropriate.”
Agent of Change is a key topic for discussion at the LCR Music Board’s regular ‘Venues Sub-Group’ meetings, and in the last three years the Board has leveraged the principle to support various local venues under threat, particularly in the Baltic Triangle, and on numerous occasions the Board has formally written to the appropriate local authority outlining its support for the venues.
If your music venue is under threat, the LCR Music Board can investigate how the Agent of Change Principle may be applied to support you. Contact the Board using this contact form https://www.lcrmusicboard.co.uk/contact-us/
The LCR Music Board is currently planning virtual Q&A sessions to support venues. Board members and representatives of the Music Venue Trust will answer questions and provide advice about Agent of Change in relation to specific circumstances (date and time TBC). If you would like to join one of these sessions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us:
- Name and address of your venue?
- When did you open?
- What complaints/issues you are having?
- Who is the developer/neighbour?
- When did the complainant become a residential site (or when was their planning approved)?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions contained within this article are those held collectively by the Liverpool City Region Music Board, but may not necessarily reflect the individual views and opinions of board members or the organisations they represent. As previously set out in the Strategy and Action Plan (2019), the Liverpool City Region Music Board will continue to lobby local authorities to implement the Agent of Change principle with regard to music venues.
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