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British Government Proposes Stronger Protection For Vanishing Venues

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Fabric nightclub on Charterhouse St. in London on Sept. 7, 2016. 

Since 2007 the British capital has lost 35 percent of its grassroots music venues.

New measures to preserve and protect live music and cultural venues in the U.K. have been proposed by the British authorities. The planned regulatory changes include stronger safeguards for venue owners against developers looking to build residential properties nearby, potentially imposing restrictions on opening times and noise levels.

In 2014, world renowned London nightclub Ministry of Sound successfully fought a highly costly four year legal battle against developers wanting to build of an apartment block opposite the club by applying ‘Agent of Change’ style legislation, which puts the onus on property developers to mitigate against noise complaints from existing venues or businesses.

Last year, over 27,000 people signed a petition to save Mayfair’s historic Curzon cinema after its future was placed over a noise dispute with developers 38 Curzon, who was converting office space above the film theater into luxury flats.

According to the cinema owners, 38 Curzon had requested payment of £500,000 ($650,000) towards soundproofing improvements – a claim denied by the developers. The campaign, nevertheless, led to the intervention of London mayor Sadiq Khan, who pledged to protect the city’s world famous cultural heritage by strengthening the ‘Agent of Change’ principle

Now the British government has too vowed to offer greater protection to venue owners and operators by amending The National Planning Policy Framework to “emphasise” the ‘Agent of Change’ principle.

“This will help mitigate the risk of restrictions or possible closure of existing businesses and other organisations due to noise and other complaints from occupiers of new developments,” states a Government White Paper, entitled “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market.”

Jo Dipple, chief executive of umbrella organization UK Music welcomed the proposals, saying that “grassroots music venues need to be cherished as they are the incubators of music talent. Any new measure which acts to preserve, improve and protect these venues has the full support of our industry.”

“Grass roots music venues have for years been the starting place for so many of the UK’s now headline artists,” added Horace Trubridge, Assistant General Secretary for the Musicians’ Union. “Musicians need a thriving network of venues to be able to hone their craft, develop their skills and make a living.  We applaud these proposals which add a further level of protection and recognise the importance of music venues to musicians, fans and communities,” he went on to say.

Since 2007, the British capital has lost 35 percent of its grassroots music venues, according to a 2015 report from the Music Venue Trust, with owners and operators citing a combination of rising rents and oppressive licensing restrictions behind the decline of a once vibrant scene.

Numbered among the famous central London venues that closed in that time is the Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos, while legendary dance club Fabric successfully fought a high profile #saveourculture campaign to remain open after it had its license temporarily revoked by Islington council following the drug related deaths of two 18-year-olds in 2016.