John Spellar, the MP for Warley in the West Midlands, has lodged a Private Members’ Bill (under the Ten Minute Rule) in the House of Commons, the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill 2017-19.
Technically, “a Bill to require specified planning controls in relation to developments likely to be affected by existing noise sources; and for connected purposes”, the bill seeks to place responsibility on developers of residential accommodation, typically in city centres, but equally in towns and even villages, to ensure that music venues can continue to function.
Most cities throughout the UK have experienced instances where residents of new or converted properties have lobbied for the closure of nearby venues on the basis of noise levels.
UK Music estimates that over a third of all UK venues have closed during the last decade (though not necessarily for this reason of course).
Mr Spellar echoed Sir Paul McCartney, who said: “if we don’t support music at this level then the future of music in general is in danger.” He also referred to the need to maximise the impact of Brexit economically and that one way of doing that is by showcasing the country’s cultural and entertainment offer.
He went on to emphasise that quality of life in city centres, in particular, is predicated on matters such as the variety and accessibility of entertainment venues and that they play a major part in attracting new firms who have to consider “would our employees want to live here?”, especially in the creative sector.
The bill would adopt the principle of agent of change legislation into planning law. That means that when buildings are converted to residential use the onus would be on the developer, not venues, to ensure that dwellings are protected from noise.
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Mr Spellar gave examples from Frome, Bristol and Cardiff where local MPs have been fighting to save local venues threatened by noise litigation from closure. In fact, legislation has already changed in Wales in favour of the venue and the same is under consideration in London and Scotland.
Mr Spellar’s bill would permit much greater power throughout the entire UK to incorporate the agent of change principle into planning decisions.
These 10-Minute Bills often fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons but this one at least has wide cross-party support as can be judged by the high attendance for Mr Spellar’s speech. The subject has also been raised in a separate mechanism, an Adjournment Debate, in November last year, which augurs well.
The bill has the required seconder and backers (again, cross-party). The second reading of the bill is on 19th January.
After that, it has three further stages in the House of Commons followed by five in the House of Lords and consideration of amendments until it can achieve Royal Assent. So there is a long way to go, but at this stage at least it is looking good.
Mr Spellar’s speech in full can se seen HERE