Use the Agent of Change principle

The "Agent of Change" principle says that the person who causes a change should be responsible for ameliorating the knock-on effects of that change.

For example, if a builder creates new housing next door to a music venue, then under current planing law it is up to the venue to create soundproofing so that its operation as a music venue does not adversely effect the new housing.

Under the Agent of Change principle, it is he builder who created the change - by building the new housing close to a source of loud, late night music - and so it is the builder who is responsible for ensuring that the new housing is adequately soundproofed.

Why the contribution is important

This would be a huge benefit in the cultural sector. There is a huge concern because new housing - or change of use to housing - can create situations where new residents can force existing cultural provision to close down.

Under existing planning law, the existing cultural venue is responsible for making sure that the new residents are not effected by noise from the use of the venue. This can be during the venue's operation as a cultural resource, such as noise from a band during a gig, or as a result of its use as a venue, such as the noise of lorries taking scenery away overnight after a Saturday-night get-out from a theatre.

However, it would seem fair that if a builder creates new housing next door to an existing venue, then the builder should be responsible for ensuring that the residents are not adversely effected by the existing operation of the venue.

by Thom on February 29, 2016 at 02:59PM

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  • Posted by cooperhack February 29, 2016 at 16:08

    The Agent of Change principle is one that should be taken seriously.

    As has been shown in Australia, Agent of Change has been a useful tool in promoting culture, and if implemented in Scotland, would prevent property developers building housing close to live music venues without installing sound-proofing, as has happened in at least one development in Edinburgh.

    Following noise complaints from incoming residents into the new builds, who developers had misled over the extent of sound-proofing in the properties, this left a venue liable for all sound-proofing, despite having operated in the area for thirty years or more without any residential properties in place close by.

    City of Edinburgh Council's Planning Department in particular appears to have consistently favoured property developers over existing cultural provision.

    This was the case following the sale of the Picture House, a live music venue with a rich history both as a live music venue and a cinema.

    A report by Planning officers on the sale to JD Wetherspoon, who sought planning permission to convert the Picture House into a 900 capacity 'superpub' was riddled with historical and factual inaccuracies and omissions.

    Only when these were raised to the Planning Committee's attention were they dismissed as 'a not good report' and subsequently redrafted.

    A petition signed by more than 16,000 Edinburgh constituents objecting to the move to convert the Picture House was disregarded by the Planning Committee, who accepted the redrafted reported and passed planning permission for the 'superpub.'

    It should be noted that at the meeting planning permission was granted that a third of the Planning Committee were absent from the meeting.

    It should also be noted that since then, no external work appears to have taken place on the site of the Picture House, and that, after some two years since its closure and sale to JD Wetherspoon, the building remains empty and unused.

    It should be pointed out too that CEO's Planning Department seem unaware of the city's rich cultural history.

    In an article in Scotland on Sunday on April 11th 2015 looking at the threat to Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage status, regarding the Caltongrange / New Waverley development, the convenor of CEC's Planning Committee was quoted as saying that "What was there before was a bus station...That's it's historic legacy...."

    This made no mention of the site as the former home of the Bongo Club, one of the city's key grassroots arts venues for many years, and which was forced to find a new home following the sale of the land on New St to developers.

    The New St site subsequently remained a gap site for the best part of a decade.

    If the Agent of Change principle had been in place, it might have prevented Edinburgh's year-round cultural provision being treated with such apparent disregard.
  • Posted by scatterjames February 29, 2016 at 23:04

    Live music should be seen and respected as an art form and should be given protected status. There are many positive aspects to live music, for example the social aspect of bringing people together to share a common culture and the opportunity for creative talent to flourish. It's not just musicians who benefit; it's designers, sound technicians, photographers and many others.

    Small live venues are where musicians learn their craft, what works, what doesn’t, it’s where they build the fan bases that take them to the labels that export them across the world. The small venue circuit is the foundation stone of the Scottish music scene, a huge creative industry employing thousands of people, all starting from that first faltering step onto a tiny stage. We have to act together to ensure musicians and music fans continue to have access to this essential part of music heritage.

    It's not right that occupants in housing which is built near a live venue are allowed to close that venue down - even though they know that they are moving into an area where there will be a level of noise. The city I live in is Edinburgh and, as it is a capital city, music is audible. Hopefully the Scottish Government will understand the need for a balanced approach and will give live music the due protection required for venues to continue to flourish for many decades to come.
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