Over the last decade and a half, London has lost an average of 81 pubs a year. Between 2007 and 2015, a quarter of the city’s music venues shut their doors, and more have followed since. But an announcement from City Hall today is good news for the survivors.
The ‘agent of change’ principle means that developers who want to build houses near existing businesses are responsible for mitigating the impact – for instance, soundproofing housing properly to make sure the new residents aren’t bothered by noise from an established pub or club next door. ‘Agent of change’ was made law in parts of Australia in 2014, and music industry bodies have been lobbying for it to be introduced in the UK too.
Now Sadiq Khan has said he’ll support their cause in the new draft London Plan, a major new set of planning rules due for publication this week. It’s a big win for London music venues and pubs, which have been concerned for years about noise complaints from new neighbours. Thirty thousand music fans signed an ‘agent of change’ petition started by the musician Frank Turner three years ago. Now it seems as though their voices might finally be heard.
The George Tavern in Stepney has been repeatedly threatened by proposals to build flats immediately next door. Its landlady, Pauline Forster, said that the announcement was ‘a good move forward to defend the pubs and live music venues of London from encroaching development’ – although she also warned that the ‘agent of change’ principle alone is not enough: ‘Pubs and clubs should be supported in acquiring deeds of easement, to ensure that people moving into residential properties close to pubs and live music venues cannot complain about the levels of noise.’ A similar arrangement helped safeguard the future of Ministry of Sound in 2014.
So, yes, it’ll take more than this rule change to get London’s music and nightlife scene out of the woods – but it’s a step in the right direction. Now, if only we could find a pub to celebrate in…