Thursday, September 11, 2014

Frank Turner's letter to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP

Thursday 11 September 2014

Dear Mr Javid

This is a call for you, the Culture Secretary, to act urgently to protect live music and other community activities in the UK. We want you to adopt the Agent of Change principle into UK law.

Since 2010, your government has changed the planning laws in a number of ways to achieve the aim of generating economic growth and addressing the housing shortage. Specifically, you have made amendments that permit changes of use to residential use without requiring planning permission. Offices, car parks and disused buildings across the country can be converted to residences. And right next door to those offices and car parks are the UK's music venues - a vital network that is the cornerstone of the UK music industry.

These venues are where I grew up, where I learned about rock’n’roll music, where I saw all my favourite bands. The venues where I played my first shows and some of my most recent, the home of the music scene that has given me my career, my passion and my life. 

They are there on purpose, many of them, because they chose those locations deliberately so that the music wouldn't ever be a 'nuisance'. The developers have no legal obligation to soundproof these new residences; at the moment UK law says the business or person making the noise is making the nuisance, and they must manage it. Good councils across the country are trying to put conditions on the new builds, but developers have deep pockets. Faced with a mountain of litigation, many councils will have no option other than to permit the developments to proceed and let the venues deal with the consequences.

Across the country we are already seeing the results. Music venues are fighting off noise complaints, abatement notices and planning applications; 12 venues are already under threat, an avalanche will follow if we don't take action. You, as the Culture Secretary, are genuinely facing a meltdown in the British live music circuit. And it won't end with music venues.

Church bells, Sports grounds, Pubs, Arts Centres, Theatres, any place that makes a noise is under threat.

And yet a solution is simple, and it's called the Agent of Change principle.

Under the Agent of Change principle, an apartment block to be built near an established live music venue would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in a residential area would be responsible for the costs. A resident who moves next door to a music venue would, in law, be assessed as having made that decision understanding that there's going to be some music noise, and a music venue that buys a new PA would be
expected to carry out tests to make sure its noise emissions don't increase. Agent of Change says the person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change.

Agent of Change is so obvious and common sense that most people are amazed it isn't already part of UK law. In Australia it's already being adopted, and the outcome is improved planning; venues working alongside their communities to manage their noise when it changes, developers making better residences that are fit for purpose.

Everyone's a winner.

We demand that you work with the Music Venue Trust and the UK's incredible network of live music venues.

The Musician's Union, The Music Industries Association, UK Music all support it.

Let's act together, right now, to adopt and enforce Agent of Change.


Frank Turner

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The Music Venue Trust was formed in January 2014 to protect and preserve the UK small music venue circuit.