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Musicians’ Union Welcomes Agent of Change Victory

The Musicians’ Union (MU) welcomes Government’s announcement to back vital plans to save music venues by adopting agent of Change into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Published: 18 January 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM
Agent of Change Campaigners

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced today that the Government is throwing its support behind the plan to protect music venues under threat from developers.

The Government’s promised changes will be to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which sets out the Government’s planning policies.

The key policy changes will see a crucial addition that will significantly beef up the framework to make it crystal clear that the Agent of Change will protect existing businesses, such as music venues, when areas are being considered for redevelopment.

That could mean, for example, the developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a nearby music venue.

The decision came after Labour MP and former Government Minister John Spellar unveiled his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill on January 10 2018 at a mass lobby of Parliament. The rally attracted massive media attention and was believed to be a turning point in the Government’s decision.

The Agent of Change campaign attracted cross-party support from politicians and music stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Eno, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Ray Davies, Imogen Heap, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Craig David as well as over 100 MPs and Peers. 

Over the past decade 35% of music venues across the country have closed. Venues currently under threat include Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece.

The Musicians' Union (MU) has been working with UK Music, of which the MU is a founder member, the Music Venue Trust, MPs from across the UK - thanks to John Spellar MP for introducing the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in Parliament - and others in the fight for Agent of Change. 

Dave Webster, Musicians’ Union National Organiser for Live Performance, said:

“This is welcome news and we are pleased that the Government has listened to the music industry.

“The pledge to strengthen the National Planning Policy Framework will give Musicians’ Union members places to play and audiences to support them, and give venues the protection they so desperately need.”

UK Music Chief Executive Michael Dugher said:

“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.

“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.”

John Spellar MP said:

“I am delighted that the Government have listened to grassroots venues and campaigners that have supported the safeguards contained in my Planning (Agent of Change) Bill. 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.”

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