In response to a spate of local music venues raising the alarm about being faced with closure, Green Party Councillors in Bristol have called on the city’s elected Labour Mayor to adopt a planning policy known as the ‘agent of change’ principle.
This principle, recently adopted by London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, puts the onus for soundproofing on new residential developments, which must shoulder responsibility for compliance when situated near an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in a residential area, it too would be responsible for complying with residential requirements.
According to the London Mayor, “developers building flats near existing venues will need to ensure that residents are not unduly affected by sound from the venue, and that may include paying for soundproofing.”
Green Councillors Martin Fodor and Steve Clarke have put forward a statement to Bristol City Council’s council meeting of 12 December, urging the Mayor to implement the ‘agent of change’ principle in Bristol to protect local music venues. In recent months, Thekla and multiple other music venues in the city have closed or come under threat of closure due to noise complaints.
Commenting on the proposal, Cllr Martin Fodor said:
"As our city's housing stock increases this is a common-sense proposal that protects our city's music venues. We hope the Labour mayor will adopt this green proposal to reassure the city's thriving music scene."
Cllr Steve Clarke said:
"We live in a City where music and existing industrial uses (often of a heritage nature as in the shipbuilding) are integral to the fabric of our vibrant urban space. I do not want to end up with a monolithic fabric of residential and retail."
The full statement reads:
Statement by Councillors Stephen Clarke and Martin Fodor:
We should formally introduce an ‘Agent of Change’ Policy into the Local Plan.
We sit on DCA and DCB committees and there have been a number of recent occasions where concerns have been raised about new residential developments impacting on existing leisure outlets and businesses. The two that come to mind are the worries about the continuation of the Thekla as a music venue and the existing shipbuilding activity next to the proposed McArthurs Warehouse apartments adjacent to the SS Great Britain. The earlier development next to the Fleece is still current as it just completed construction.
In all these cases, the concern is that new apartments will be purchased or rented by people who then try to stop the existing potentially noisy operations which are happening next door. This is unacceptable in our view. We live in a City where music and existing industrial uses (often of a heritage nature as in the shipbuilding) are integral to the fabric of our vibrant urban space. We do not want to end up with a monolithic fabric of residential and retail.
To deal with this issue the Mayor of London has proposed a planning principle in the London Plan called ‘The Agent of Change Rule’. It says:
‘Boroughs should ensure that planning decisions reflect the Agent of Change principle and take account of existing noise-generating uses in a sensitive manner when new development, particularly residential is proposed nearby…Boroughs should refuse development proposals that have not clearly demonstrated how noise impacts will be mitigated and managed.’
‘Development should be designed to ensure that established noise generating venues remain viable and can continue or grow without unreasonable restrictions being placed on them.’
At the moment we have no such principle in our planning policy documents. We, therefore, propose that we adopt a similar policy to the London one and we would ask that the Mayor promotes it as an important part of our Local Plan.
Submitted by: Councillors Stephen Clarke & Martin Fodor
Date: 11 December 2017