Last edited 08 Sep 2016

Agent of change

Agent of change’ is a principle that has been promoted by the live music industry as a means of protecting venues from closure.

Local authorities tend to favour complaints from residents in new developments over noise levels from established music venues in the vicinity. This has been cited as a major factor in venues closing in large numbers in recent years. In London alone, 35% of live music venues closed between 2007 and 2015.

It is proposed that the principle of ‘agent of change’ is triggered automatically when a new planning application is made. It holds that the person or business responsible for the change must also be responsible for managing the impact of the change. This would mean, in the case of live music, that a developer of a new residential building near an existing music venue would be required to include appropriate noise attenuation measures.

In the reverse circumstances, where a new music venue is proposed near an existing residential building, then the ‘agent of change’ – the music venue – would need to ensure they included appropriate measures to reduce noise.

This is different from current position which holds that whoever is reported as making a nuisance is always responsible for that nuisance. This is position is held irrespective of how long the 'nuisance' has existed, historic instances of the same noise being a nuisance, or whether someone has moved into the vicinity of the noise in full knowledge of it.

The principle has been successfully trialed in Australia.

In April 2016, the UK’s Housing and Planning Bill was passed into law which included an amendment that states developers are required to seek prior approval on noise impacts before changing the use of a site to residential dwellings. While this legislation does not introduce the agent of change principle, it has been said to mark a step-change in planning law, allowing local planning authorities to consider noise impacts on new residents from existing businesses within the area.

The principle does not allow for consideration of management issues, which can have a significant impact on noise nuisance. A previously well-managed venue that did not cause nuisance can become a problem because of doors being left open, poor management of closing time and so on.

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