UK Music calls for government to back local venues

Agent of Change demonstration

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher has urged local authorities to back music venues across the UK by fully supporting the Agent of Change Principle.

In a letter addressed to the Chair of the Local Government Association, Dugher spoke of the threat facing local music venues in the UK by the growing demand for developable property in cities.

The Agent of Change Principle requires those responsible for new residential accommodation to ensure any existing venues can continue operating and exist alongside new developments.

Dugher’s letter coincides with the inclusion Agent of Change in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a legally binding guideline for future building developments in the UK.

In his letter to Lord Porter of Spalding, Dugher wrote: ‘As the national voice for local government… the LGA can play a key role in delivering Agent of Change, which could make a real difference in the music industry.

‘Music venues play a vital role in supporting the industry’s infrastructure and ensuring a healthy live music industry, which contributes £1bn to the UK economy.’

But even though local authorities are legally bound to comply with NPPF and observe the Agent of Change Principle, concerns for the future security of local venues remain within the music industry.

Around 35% of small music venues in the UK have closed in the last decade because of increased rents and landlords selling land to developers.

The financial burden brought about by the demand for property has made many local music venues vulnerable and means that grassroots venues are finding it harder to operate.

There are hopes that these new measures will begin to protect venues most at risk.

Both the Mayors of London and Bristol have committed to introducing Agent of Change in their areas and Governments in Scotland and Wales are in the process of introducing the principle.

On the initiative, Dugher said: ‘The introduction of agent of change in the NPPF marks a pivotal moment in the fight to protect under threat music venues. The Government is to be congratulated for taking this decisive step.

‘Too often music venues have been the victims of developers. This new law will help ensure music venues can continue to grow audiences and develop talent, contributing significantly to our £1bn live music industry.

‘There is now no excuse for local authorities for not stepping in to protect grassroots music venues.’

John Spellar, MP for Warley, said: ‘This is great news for musicians and music lovers whose voice has been loud and has now been heard. Local authorities must now make use of these vital tools to support our world leading music creativity throughout our towns, cities and communities.’

Photo: MP’s and members of UK Music gather to support the implementation of the Agent of Change Principle outside Parliament in January.