Lewis considers further planning protections for music venues

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has said that he will 'look further' at the role of planning in protecting grassroots music venues.

Koko: Recent High Court fight to block plans to convert the pub next door into flats (picture by Ewan Munro, Flickr)
Koko: Recent High Court fight to block plans to convert the pub next door into flats (picture by Ewan Munro, Flickr)

Speaking during a Housing and Planning Bill committee session earlier this week, Lewis told MPs that he would meet music organisations to discuss the matter.

Lewis was responding to Labour amendments which sought to introduce so-called "agent of change" principles that would make developers of housing near entertainment venues responsible for noise management.

The amendments sought to ensure that where permission is granted to a change of use to a residential use, the new residents’ amenity is protected; and secondly, to require that the cost of any mitigation measures needed to protect residents’ amenity, particularly against noise, is borne by the developer.

Lewis told the committee that he believed the new clauses to be unnecessary. "They will impose inflexible requirements on local authorities and others where there are already appropriate protections to address these issues."

But he added: "I am keen to look further at this matter. I have been working with my hon. friend the minister for culture and the digital economy, who is arranging for me to sit down and meet some of the music organisations that were mentioned this morning."

Lewis said: "If a business is working and a nearby building converts to residential housing, that is a good thing; we want more housing. It would be entirely wrong of the people who moved into the residential housing to complain about the business that existed before the residential housing was there."

Lewis added: "In December 2014, we made amendments to the planning guidance to underline planning’s contribution to protecting music venues, but I am interested in looking further at that issue."

Earlier, shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods had told the committee: "The government’s position seems to be that the existing framework provides sufficient protection for music venues, but that is clearly not the case.

"If there was sufficient protection, we would not have music venue after music venue saying, ‘We are at risk of not being able to continue because of complaints made to the local council’."

In a statement, the Labour Party said that shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher had written to culture secretary John Whittingdale to call on the government to act.

The letter said: "It is no doubt a step forward that the government has agreed to learn more about the problems facing grassroots music and will consider implementing the ‘agent of change’ principle. But it is a shame that ministers have been so slow to act as I know the industry has been trying to talk to ministers about this issue for many months now.     

"Labour will hold the government to account on its promise to engage with the music industry. And if the government still fails to act, Labour will be ready to bring our amendments back to the House of Commons at a later stage of the Planning and Housing Bill."

Earlier this year, a task force report partly blamed noise complaints from the residents of new homes next to live music venues for contributing to a 35 per cent drop in the number of such establishments in London since 2007.

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