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UK Music CEO unveils plan to protect grassroots venues

L-R: Kevin Brennan MP, CEO Michael Dugher, Chris Childs (from Hope and Ruin), UK Music Heather Varley, Musicians Union Dave Webster, and UK Music Vincent Moss

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher has unveiled plans for a new law to protect music venues threatened with closure.

The proposed crackdown would force developers to consider the impact their schemes could have on nearby music venues and take steps to ensure their continued survival.

UK Music’s plan is to enshrine the “agent of change” principle in law. The initiative hopes to transform the future of Britain’s music scene by safeguarding the future of hundreds of venues for decades to come.

“Enshrining agent of change in law would be a critical weapon to help music venues across the UK in their fight for survival,” Dugher said. “The threat from developers, along with soaring business rates and licensing regulations, could prove a lethal cocktail for many venues unless we work together to help them survive and thrive.”

According to UK Music, the agent of change would require a developer to take account of pre-existing businesses like music venues before proceeding with a project.

The new law would place a burden on the developer to make sure that solutions are in place to mitigate the potential impact of their scheme on existing businesses.

For example, to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about the noise from a music venue, the developers could be told to fund the cost of extra soundproofing for the music venue.

Agent of change

At present, the figure of agent of change is already included in planning guidance in England. However, it can be easily ignored because it is not compulsory in England, Scotland or Wales, UK Music said.

Across the UK, an estimated 35 per cent of grassroots music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015. In London alone, the capital has lost over a third of its grassroots music venues in the last 10 years.

Former Government Minister and Labour MP John Spellar will spearhead UK Music’s campaign in Parliament to get the proposed new law on to the statute book.

Spellar will outline the measures in a backbench Bill – called a Ten Minute Rule Bill – later this year and hopes to win Government support for the legislation.

According to UK Music’s latest figures, 30.9 million people attended live music events in the UK in 2016, contributing towards the £4 billion generated by music tourism in the UK last year.

Commenting on the plan, Spellar said: “I’m delighted to be working with UK Music to win support for the agent of change principle.

“More than 30 million people attended live music events last year at venues across the UK. The live music industry makes a major contribution to our economy, employment and our culture. It must be safeguarded,” he concluded.