Make Some Noise

Boris Johnson gets behind campaign to save music venues

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

More consideration will be given to music venues in planning decisions
More consideration will be given to music venues in planning decisions

Related tags Music venues Nightclub Music venue Public house London

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has thrown his weight behind the ‘agent of change’ principle in an attempt to put a stop to the “catastrophic” loss of London’s live-music venues, including scores of pubs. 

The principle, which says that a person or business who causes a change in environment is responsible for managing its impact, will now be explicitly referenced in supplementary planning guidance across London boroughs.

Johnson has recommended that the next mayor, who will be elected in May next year, includes the principle in the strategic plan for London that must be drawn up when they take office.

Johnson’s support is another victory for the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s​ Make Some Noise campaign, which united the industry to lobby the Government to protect established pubs and bars threatened with closure or conditions on their licenses due to noise complaints.

The agent-of-change principle has proven successful in Australia and Canada, and puts the onus on the developer to mitigate against future problems that might emerge between newcomers to an area and a long-standing local venue, for example, over noise complaints.

Earlier this year, the Government strengthened planning guidance issued to local councils to en-courage developers building homes near pubs and live music venues to install soundproofing.

The mayor’s support comes after the release of a report this week, London’s Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan, which revealed iconic music venues are closing in the city and many are struggling to survive.

The report recommends a ‘night-time mayor’ is appointed, who will bring a group of developers, venue owners, licensing officers and police together to share best practice and iron out problems. It also calls for local authorities to encourage greater use of asset of community value nominations for live music venues.

Johnson said: “Music venues have played a key role in enabling some of the biggest names in music to develop as artists and to build audiences. They are the incubators for the stars that go on to pack stadiums across the world. The Music Venues Trust report makes it clear that protecting live music venues is crucial to London’s continued position as the music capital of the world.”

The Music Venues Rescue Plan named business rates as one factor putting pressure on venues, as well as rising property prices, the planning system and prescriptive licensing requirements. It also found time constraints on already stretched planning officers meant they ‘overlook’ threats to venues.

Celebrity favourite, the George Tavern, in Stepney, is one pub facing closure after developers bought an abandoned nightclub next door and plan to turn it into residential flats. Owner Pauline Forster argued the mayor’s plans fell short of what was required to protect venues.


She told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser:​ “It’s not enough just to insulate buildings that are built near venues. The real answer is to not allow developers to build flats or houses that close in the first place.

"In my pub’s case, it’s not just the music noise that people can complain about, it’s people leaving in high spirits, or people enjoying the beer garden in the summer. There’s no reason why every square inch on London has to be expensive flats. It could be work spaces or places for the community instead.”

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