Industry News

Stars back ‘agent of change’ bill

Proposals to protect the future of live music venues in the UK have been submitted to Parliament as stars united to back MP John Spellar’s ‘agent of change’ bill.

Paul McCartney, Ray Davies, Chrissie Hynde and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason are among those to back the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill, which would require property developers to take into account pre-existing businesses, like music venues, before proceeding with a project.

Spellar introduced the bill on Wednesday, as stars such as Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Howard Jones gathered at Westminster to publicly back legislation designed to end the rise in venue closures.

The bill has the backing of at least 75 MPs and peers, including former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, as well as Music Venue Trust, UK Music and the Musicians’ Union.

McCartney said: “Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different. If we don’t support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”

Some 35 per cent of music venues have been knocked down the last decade. Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, Roadhouse and Sound Control, Liverpool’s Kazimier and Sheffield’s Boardwalk are among those to have closed their doors for good.

An ‘agent of change’ rule was added to the new London Plan draft proposed by Mayor Sadiq Khan late last year in a bid to protect the live music scene in the capital.

Spellar said: “This bill is designed to protect existing music venues from facing closure or crippling cost arising from development of new residential properties in their vicinity.

“What the bill will do in practice is that when buildings near a music venue are converted to residential use or a new development is put up, the onus will be on the developer – not the venue – to ensure the new dwellings are protected from factors (particularly noise) which could be significantly disrupting to residents. The present situation, where this is not the case, is having a crippling effect on music venues.”

The bill was also backed by ticketing and events company Skiddle, which called the epidemic of venue closures “truly shameful”.

The company said: “We are delighted that a bill has been introduced in Parliament to protect music venues and stop the rapid and ever-increasing threat of closure.

“The fact 35 per cent of music venues have closed in the past decade is truly shameful. This often comes down to greedy building developers who have no regard for the UK’s cultural spaces, and are only interested in lining their own pockets by knocking down these vitally important venues. But all this can change.

“With cross-party support and backing from a host of big-name artists, campaigning organisations and venues, we are confident that our rich and vibrant music scene can be protected, nurtured and encouraged before it is too late.”

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