Agent of Change says that the person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change.
This means that 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.
A ruling in Guildford Magistrates’ Court has quashed a noise abatement order issued against a local venue following a complaint by the developer of new block of flats.
The noise abatement order was issued by Guildford Borough Council in October 2018 against the Star Inn, a pub which stages live music.
The Council received a complaint from the developer of a new block of flats nearby. The pub’s owner, the Shepherd Neame brewery, appealed the order, arguing that complying with it would cost a significant portion of the business’s revenue and could therefore potentially force the venue to close.
However, because the developer had chosen to redevelop an office block next to an existing music venue into a residential property, the Agent of Change principle was evoked.
The spirit of the principle makes it the responsibility of developers putting residential properties next to existing venues to both anticipate and counter any future noise issues.
Judge Nick Wattam said: “The Star was said to have only been a nuisance because of [the new flats] existing. It wasn’t a nuisance before the conversion of the office building into flats. The venue has a useful or reasonable use. Matters in the venue are carried out in a lawful way. The venue is no greater nuisance now than when the building was first converted”.
The Music Venue Trust said on Facebook: “Attention all developers: Stop and read this judge’s decision carefully. Our door is open to all developers that want to talk sensibly about how to build around grassroots music venues in a manner that protects culture and beloved community spaces. Let this case be the end of trying to work around agent of change or bend the law or planning guidance. Let it be the start of building great housing that protects our cherished grassroots music venues.
“Congratulations to the team at the Star. Absolutely brilliant!’