A sound new policy

THE Scottish Government has backed calls to implement an ‘agent of change’ principle in planning policy to protect music venues from costs brought about by property developers – with immediate effect.

Following appeals from the licensed trade and politicians, which was reported in SLTN’s February 15 issue, as well as Westminster’s implementation of the principle down south, strengthened planning guidance on the agent of change principle will be included in the next version of the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy – and local authorities have been asked to implement it with immediate effect.

The addition of the principle in planning law means established venues will no longer be forced to pay for changes brought about by complaints from residents of new-build developments. Instead, the developer – as the ‘agent of change’ – will be responsible for any cost involved in soundproofing and other noise mitigation issues.

Housing minister, Kevin Stewart, said the Scottish Government “recognises the significant cultural and economic contribution of our music industry”.

“It is only right we do what we can to protect the established and emerging musical talent and that is why we are embedding the agent of change principle in our planning guidance,” he said.

“I have asked the chief planner to write to all planning authorities asking them to act now.”

The letter is said to highlight existing guidance on noise issues and ask local authorities to ensure decisions reflect the agent of change principle ahead of the next National Planning Framework’s adaptation, which is expected to be implemented in 2020.

The move has been welcomed by the industry. Beverley Whitrick of Music Venue Trust said: “Ministers have listened to the case and taken on board the fact that grassroots music venues need protection and recognition for their contribution to towns and cities.”

However, Whitrick added: “This is an important issue and will certainly help venues, but it is not the only challenge they face. We look forward to working further with the Scottish Government to ensure the long-term sustainability of venues across Scotland.”