Much of the past few years has been spent discussing with a heavy heart the increasing number of UK music venues being closed down. In London alone a tonne of clubs have closed, including the Marquee Club, the Astoria, Madame Jojo's, and Power Lunches, while Fabric and Bussey Building in Peckham have both faced down recent threats. Meanwhile, across the country, venues like Manchester's Roadhouse, Glasgow's the Arches, Cardiff's Barfly and The Point, and Leeds' The Cockpit have all been claimed as casualties in this one-sided war.
Closures often come from properties around the club being developed into flats, only for the new residents to act surprised the music venue actually plays music. Other times, the closures came as a result of pressure from the police and/or local authorities concerned about drug use and crime in and around the venue. Both reasons are flimsy at best, though no one has been able to drum that into the collective head of the authorities.
That all looks to change now. Hopefully.
Recently, Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government, alongside Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey MP sat down to discuss the issue. Even the Mayor of London's put his weight behind it, forming the Mayor's Music Venues Taskforce—chaired by the Music Venue Trust. Since then it's been announced that new government legislation will be implemented to protect music venues in planning law. From April 6, 2016, local planning authorities will have to consider existing noise impacts on new residents from existing businesses under an amended permitted development right. In other words, as the Music Venue Trust puts it, “you can't change offices to flats any more if a music venue is nearby, developers will need to work with the local authority and the music venue to ensure that live music is protected.”
“This common sense move by the government provides an opportunity for local authorities to use their powers to ensure that live music continues to play a vital economic, cultural and social role in our towns and cities,” says Mark Davyd of Music Venue Trust. “For music venues, this has never been about stopping development or preventing the creation of much needed new housing; it's always been about ensuring that new development recognises the culture, economy and vibrancy of city centres by building great housing, enabling existing music venues and new residents to live in harmony. This is a major victory for the UK's music venues and music fans. The fight to protect, secure and improve them goes on.”
It's not the final word, however. The legislation won't protect venues already under threat, and it doesn't entirely protect venues from future conflicts between residents and venues. Neither will it affect developments who have already gone through planning but haven't started building yet. Also, crucially, it doesn't go as far as to introduce the “agent of change” principle recommended in a 2015 report on London's nightlife.
But it's a hell of a start.
You can read the new regulations in full here.