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Mayor to publish planning guidance on music venues

Words: Laura Edgar
Live music / iStock_000051573308

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is going to publish planning guidance on how planning policy could aid in the protection of the capital’s music venues.

This follows the publication of London’s grassroots music venues: Rescue Plan by the Mayor’s Music Venues Taskforce.

The report found that from 2007 to 2015, London has seen the number of places for new artists to perform drop from 136 to 88.

The Rescue Plan states: “Planning, licensing, policing and fiscal policy is struggling to balance the needs of grassroots music venues with those of residents and businesses. An increasing population means that residential development is taking place cheek-by-jowl with night-time activity. This pressure, coupled with rising property prices and increasing costs for grassroots music venues, is proving too much and venues are closing.”

Therefore, the taskforce makes several recommendations, including:

• The mayor should ensure that the next iteration of the London Plan contains specific reference to music venues and their economic, cultural and social value. He should also include specific reference to music venues in future Supplementary Planning Guidance;

• Local authorities should also ensure that the next iterations of their local plans and any Supplementary Planning Guidance contain specific mention to music venues;

• Adopt the Agent of Change principle in the London Plan, putting the onus on developers to mitigate potential future conflicts between new developments and long-standing live venues;

• Local authorities should make more use of the Asset of Community Value process to protect music venues;

• Developers should consider using the Deed of Easement of Noise when creating housing near existing music venues; and

• Developers should work with planning authorities to create high-quality new grassroots venues and set up ‘Music Zones’ for grassroots music activity.

The mayor said: “The Music Venues Taskforce report makes it clear that protecting live music venues is crucial to London's continued position as the music capital of the world. This timely report will shape our long-term action plan to safeguard and revive London's vital network of live music venues, ensuring the future of the capital's culturally and economically important music scene."

The mayor has said he will be taking forward a number of recommendations in the report to protect London’s music venues, such as the application of Agent of Change principles.

Following the publication of the report, Michael Dempsey, senior associate at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)* warned developers that the balance of power was potentially shifting in London and that music venues would begin to have more influence over residential development in their neighbourhood.

“Up until now, if new homes are built and the residents complain of noise disturbance, the chances are the venue will find themselves dealing with the fall-out and could be forced to either implement changes to its licensing conditions or else shut down altogether. But the entertainment industry is lobbying strongly for a change that will give them the benefit of having been established there first before the residents came and the mayor’s report recognises the important role that the planning system has to play,” said Dempsey.

“What this means for developers is that increasingly pub and club owners, whose focus has traditionally been on their licensing, will begin to take a much greater interest in planning. The onus is likely to be on developers to come up with a solution rather than leaving it to residents to complain there’s a problem for the venue to deal with.

“Early engagement with neighbours will be key to delivering such schemes.”

• BLP acted for the Koko Club when it won its judicial review of Camden Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the residential conversion of a neighbouring pub