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'It's a Tremendous Boost': British Government Backs Plan to Protect Music Venues From Closure

Fabric nightclub
Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

A general view of Fabric nightclub in Farringdon, London.

The British government has said it will strengthen planning laws to better protect music venues in the U.K.

Following a concerted campaign led by umbrella organization UK Music, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to change planning regulations to give venue owners greater protection from developers.

"Music venues play a vital role in our communities, bringing people together and contributing to the local economy and supporting the country's grass roots music culture," said Javid, announcing plans to establish the 'Agent of Change' principle in U.K. law.

The move means that property developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any sound problems relating to pre-existing businesses like music venues when areas are being considered for redevelopment. That's a significant change from the current situation where the responsibility often lies with venue owners to improve soundproofing when new apartment blocks and residents set up home next door.

"I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby," said Javid, pledging to work closely with the music industry to solve the issue. The proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework will be consulted later this year and, if approved, could pass into law by the summer.

Earlier this month, MP John Spellar, tabled an 'Agent of Change' bill in Parliament, following a gathering of music industry representatives outside Westminster. A second reading was scheduled for later this month, although will now be postponed following the government's pledge of support.

Welcoming today's (Jan. 18) news, UK Music chief Michael Dugher called the plans a "seismic victory for all those who fought so hard to safeguard the future of music venues across the U.K."

"We are delighted the government has thrown its support behind our Agent of Change plan and is strengthening the rules to protect grassroots music venues.  It's a tremendous boost for the live music industry," Dugher went on to say.

Over the past decade 35 percent of music venues in the U.K. have closed their doors, according to Music Venue Trust figures, with London's Marquee, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos among the most high-profile losses. There's also been a number of near-calls with London club Ministry of Sound spending over £1 million ($1.35 million) in legal costs when its future was threatened by plans to build an apartment block opposite.

UK Music identifies Bristol live music venues the Thekla and the Fiddlers and the Fleece, as well as the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff, as cultural institutions currently under threat from developers.

The campaign to establish Agent of Change in law -- and protect the future of grass-roots venues -- has attracted a wide range of cross-industry support with Billy Bragg, Brian Eno, Imogen Heap, Ray Davies, Chrissie Hynde, Pink Floyd's Nick Mason  and Sir Paul McCartney among its backers.

"If we don't support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger," warned McCartney in 2016.