Scotland praised for music venue planning protection

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Scotland is “leading the way” in protecting music venues from planning disputes which threaten them with closure, MSPs have heard.

Representatives from music industry bodies welcomed the Scottish Government’s recent announcement on planning guidance.

The guidance aims to ensure developers building homes near established music venues will be responsible for ensuring residents are not disturbed by noise.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee, Tom Kiehl from UK Music highlighted Scotland’s “immense contribution to the music industry”, saying 1.2 million music tourists spent £334 million last year.

He said an estimated 35% of live music venues across the UK closed in the past 10 years for a variety of reasons with planning issues “becoming a particular concern”, adding: “Planning disputes can threaten a venue’s existence.

“You’ve got a situation where a venue might have existed for 10 or 15 years, coexisting with other businesses in that area.

“You then have a situation with a new development or a change of use situation in that area that then creates problems for that venue because as soon as you develop residential accommodation, we all want places for people to live, but as soon as you develop that then you have potential situation leaving them vulnerable to noise complaints issues which then could threaten licences.”

He said a lengthy campaign has been fought for the adoption of the agent of change principle, which originated in Australia, and puts the onus on the new business or development coming into an area to mitigate noise complaints.

The Scottish Government announced earlier this month a letter is being sent to all planning authorities asking them to ensure decisions reflect the principle from now on and it will be formally included in a new version of the national planning framework which is expected to be adopted in 2020.

Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust also gave evidence.

She said: “Scotland is already leading the way from the letter that the minister issued to local authorities.

“That hasn’t happened anywhere else in the UK.”

Ms Whitrick said her organisation wants grassroots music venues to have “cultural parity” with places such as theatres or arts centres, as music venues currently tend to be treated more harshly under planning and licensing.

“There are are very few instances of people moving near to a theatre and complaining that there is noise,” she said.

“Across the country there are so many from people that move near a music venue and then say ‘well, people leave late at night or I can sometimes hear music’.

“And for some reason the way that music venues are percieved means that seems ok to complain about in way that about doesn’t often happen for more recognised cultural venues.

“It doesn’t tend to happen for concert halls or opera houses or theatres.”

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