By Jack Walsh
OPERATORS and trade bodies have welcomed a Holyrood committee report which calls on the Scottish Government to implement the ‘agent of change’ principle in planning law to strengthen protections for venues from costs brought about by developers.
Following appeals from the licensed trade and politicians, as reported in SLTN (February 15, 16 and March 1), the Scottish Government said it would implement the agent of change principle in the next National Planning Framework (NPF) and Scottish Planning Policy.
However, in its report published last week (May 17), the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee questioned whether guidance alone or inclusion within the NPF would “sufficiently safeguard” the principle from further policy changes. It argued that the principle, which means venues will no longer be forced to pay for changes brought about by complaints from residents of new-build developments, should be implemented in the Planning (Scotland) Bill to ensure it is adhered to at all times.
Craig Adams of Aberdeen bar, Krakatoa, told SLTN that the recommendation sounds “very positive”. He said currently developers can get around objections, leaving operators liable for costs if residents of developments then make noise complaints.
“Once it’s built, they won’t go back and say ‘tear it down and do it again’, so that’s an issue,” said Adams. “So if [the principle] is in the Act then that might tighten that up quite a lot”.
Beverley Whitrick of Music Venue Trust, which submitted evidence to the committee, said the report is “great news for Scottish venues” and “another step forward”.
The committee also recommended widening the statutory consulates on planning applications to include a representative body of music venues; and it’s seeking further information from the government on whether a definition of cultural spaces should be amended to include grassroots music venues, as well as whether a designation of “areas of cultural significance” should be created to better protect venues.
Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts said the adoption of agent of change into law “would be hugely significant for Scotland’s music community”.