Saturday 21 September 2019

Change in law proposed to protect music venues from closure

UK Music chief Michael Dugher warned the threat from developers, soaring rates and licensing regulations could be a “lethal cocktail” for many venues.

Music Venue Stock
Music Venue Stock

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

Britain’s live music venues could be offered a legal lifeline as part of a proposal forcing developers to consider a project’s impact on pre-existing businesses.

The change in law, proposed by industry body UK Music, would ensure that developers take nearby businesses into account before proceeding with construction.

It comes after an estimated 35% of grassroots venues closed down between between 2007 and 2015, while London has lost more than a third of venues over the past decade, according to UK Music.

If enshrined in law, the “agent of change” principle would place the onus on the developer to find solutions to potential issues for residents in an area.

For example, they could be forced to fund extra soundproofing for a venue to avoid the risk of neighbours complaining about noise.

The agent of change is currently included in planning guidance but can be ignored as it is not compulsory in England, Scotland or Wales.

Parliamentary Palace of Varieties

The crackdown would help stem the tide of venue closures, UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher said.

Last week a landmark decision by Tower Hamlets Council ruled that the redevelopment of a popular gay bar in east London into luxury apartments must include an LGBT club for at least 25 years.

The preservation of the Joiners Arms – which has counted Sir Ian McKellen and Rufus Wainwright among its customers – was backed by supporters including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and celebrities.

Mr Dugher said: “The threat from developers, along with soaring business rates and licensing regulations, could prove a lethal cocktail for many venues unless we work together to help them survive and thrive.

“In particular, these are challenging times for small and grassroots venues which play a crucial role in nurturing new talent and helping artists get their big break.

“I hope everyone will join UK Music in our battle to get ‘agent of change’ on to the statute book so we can ensure the continued vibrancy and diversity of our fantastic music venues.”

Labour MP John Spellar is to spearhead the campaign with a backbench Bill later this year as he warned the live music industry “must be safeguarded”.

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