New regulations to protect the dwindling number of grassroots music venues in the United Kingdom have been passed by the British government.
The amended legislation comes into effect on April 6 and means property developers are now required to seek prior approval on the impact of noise from existing music venues when applying to transform office space into a residential building.
It follows a wave of small- to medium-sized concert hall closures in London over the past eight years during which the capital city has lost 35 percent of its grassroots music venues. Some of the historic venues that have shuttered in the past decade include The Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos, with dozens more shuttered throughout the city's outskirts. Last fall, The Coronet announced that after almost 140 years it too would close its doors in January 2017.
Rising rents, high business rates and licensing restrictions have all been cited as contributing factors behind the decline of London's world-famous live music scene. Nor is the problem limited to just the U.K. capital. A recent report from umbrella trade association UK Music in association with Bucks New University found that 50 percent of music venues in the city of Bristol -- home to Massive Attack and Portishead, among others -- were adversely affected by development, noise or planning issues.
It is hoped that the introduction of new planning regulations, which applies only to applications to transform office space into residential use, will give music venues throughout the U.K. greater protection against noise complaints from residents living in properties that have sprung up close to concert halls. As part of the new guidelines, planning authorities could require developers to put in place noise mitigation measures where appropriate when building homes in close proximity to established music venues.
Welcoming the news, Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust said: "This common sense move by the government provides an opportunity for local authorities to use their powers to ensure that live music continues to play a vital economic, cultural and social role in our towns and cities." He went on to call the legislation a "major victory for the U.K.'s music venues and music fans," which enables "existing music venues and new residents to live in harmony."
That stance was echoed by Jo Dipple, CEO of UK Music, who thanked government ministers Ed Vaizey, Brandon Lewis and James Wharton for "taking up our cause and offering to act on industry concerns." She added: "If these new regulations have the desired effect, grassroots venues around the U.K. will have additional powers to help them survive and prosper."
According to data collected by U.K. Music, live music contributed £924 million ($1.3 billion) to the British economy in 2014 with music fans making over 26 million visits to live concerts or festivals in the U.K.