The Agent of Change Principle live in Westminster

19th January 2018 Commercial

As far as band names go, The Agent of Change Principle may not be one destined to adorn the T-shirts of millions of devoted fans (although this never held back the Super Furry Animals). However, these 5 words may one day be on the tip of every music lover's tongue as the saviour of (grassroots) music.

Whilst The Agent of Change Principle has garnered international recognition, most of the UK remains playing catch-up, but, this may be about to change. On Friday 19 January 2018, 'The Principle' gets a second date in Parliament with support from John Spellar MP. Having been met with critical acclaim from the UK music industry on its debut outing last week and with top billing in the Mayor of London's 'The London Plan 2018', its ever growing band of supporters are confident that bigger and better things await and that one day it will be permanently inducted into UK law on a statutory basis.


The primary aim of The Agent of Change Principle is to protect live music venues in the UK by requiring residential developers to take into account such pre-existing businesses before the commencement of their developments (whether new build or conversions), and is born out of a direct reaction to a nationwide wave of closures of late-night music venues directly attributable to complaints from residents new to the area.

More and more long established venues are finding themselves in an increasingly hostile local environment as property values and the pressure to build more city centre housing intensifies. This has been further compounded by permitted development rights which have encouraged city centre office to residential conversions, albeit, The Principle (in some incarnation) has found a statutory footing (whilst not in primary legislation) when it comes to the implementation of such rights.

New (residential) developments adjoining or in the immediate vicinity of live music venues, often generate noise complaints from unwelcoming (new) neighbours resulting in fines, licensing conditions/restrictions being imposed and costs associated with contesting subsequent noise-abatement notices and or installing noise reduction measures within venues, being incurred.

Whilst The Principle currently appears in various forms throughout planning policy and guidance, it is not defined by statute and is not law. More often than not, current practice seeks to identify whether a new development will cause a nuisance to those around it and thereafter looks to deal with the same and protect against it. What The Principle does is to look towards the other impacts such a grant of planning permission may have with the onus being on the developers (given they are effecting the change) as the ones who should bear the burden (financial or otherwise) of the negative impact that their development will have on others, regardless of what that impact is.

The 'B' Side

The result of The Principle will be that developers will increasingly have to design schemes around neighbouring live venues and will have to undertake anything from insulating their new development or the actual music source itself, to reaching agreements concerning occupiers, or making financial payments, or a combination of these and other arrangements, with a view to securing a harmonious co-existence between neighbours.

Whilst many developers will certainly remain critical it is hoped that the upfront outlay of such extensive and costly noise reduction measures will be somewhat offset by the reduction in consequential costly and time consuming noise dispute actions brought by developers.

Further, it is hoped that developers should be faced with more marketable properties and ultimately, happier customers, by being able to undertake appropriate (sought after) development in city centres close to attractive creative and cultural offerings.

On the other side, The Principle would also ensure that should a new music venue open within an existing residential area it would be the music venue that would be responsible for complying with residential requirements.


Cardiff, Bristol, Belfast, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester as well as London have all seen small venues go under in the past few years with estimates that as much as 40% of grassroots music venues have closed in London over the last 10 to 12 years. Whilst there are multiple reasons for such closures, one common factor is regularly new residential schemes in the immediate vicinity.

Unfortunately The Principle comes too late for Night & Day Cafe (which has been a fixture in Manchester's Northern Quarter since the early 90's), who faced statutory noise complaints from residents of an adjoining residential development as a result of inadequate noise reduction measures within the new development. The complaint and the real possibility of enforcement action prompted an online petition with more than 75,000 signatures in support of the venue, which ultimately helped saved the venue, but not after considerable outlay by the venue (not the developers) on further sound proofing.

Mark Davyd head of the Music Venue Trust:

'It often starts from a relatively benign decision.. The Troubadour in London was up for sale because they had a noise complaint related to their use of the garden. Kensington and Chelsea borough said they couldn't use it after 9pm, their drink turnover went down substantially, and now there's no guarantee it'll be a venue in future.'

'Someone wants to build next to The Fleece in Bristol.. Bristol City Council have fought hard for them, but they don't have any support in law and flats are going to be built 20 metres from the main stage. In the next couple of years there will be noise complaints that will cost the Fleece £12,000 to £15,000 to handle, and it's not making that in profit. The Point in Cardiff: they installed £68,000 worth of acoustic baffling to stop the complaints from a new development, and servicing the loan put them out of business. These little things just build up.'


Provided The Principle is again well received on 19 January 2018 (subject to the outcome of a vote), it is anticipated that a full list of dates will follow and thereafter it is hoped that The Principle will become law within a year.

However and as most bands know, a lot can happen in a year and with a lots of stages between now and the passing of Royal Assent, the continued support of the fans and the music industry will be required to ensure that The Principle doesn't run out of steam and continues to enjoy success.


Author's CV

  • Paul is a partner in the Real Estate Department at JMW Solicitors LLP and has particular experience in development (residential and commercial), and across the leisure sector having acted for occupiers of nightclubs, dedicated live music venues and other licensed premises.
  • Paul spent much of the mid 90's and 00's playing bass in unsigned bands across Manchester's and Sheffield's grassroots venues and continues to enjoy live music at those same venues (or at least the ones that have survived).

If you'd like to talk to Paul about this or a related issue (or even his band experience) please do not hesitate to email dircetly or call 0345 872 6666.

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Paul Burton is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Real Estate Commercial department

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