My Lords, I too served on your Lordships’ Select Committee on licensing in 2017, and on the subsequent follow-up committee. I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in heaping praise on the absolutely able chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. As we have heard, both committees concluded that it was important to incorporate the agent of change principle in planning policy and guidance.
In case anybody is in any doubt what this means, the agent of change principle ensures that a new development must shoulder responsibility for compliance when situated near, for example, an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in an existing residential area, it would be responsible for complying with residential requirements to minimise nuisance. For example, based on this principle, an apartment block built near an established music venue would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in an existing residential area would be responsible for the cost of soundproofing.
The committee was therefore very pleased that the Government agreed that the agent of change principle should be reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework and in Section 182 guidance. That has now happened. However, the follow-up committee heard that the principle as it stands, reflected in those documents, does not sufficiently explain the duties of all parties involved. The committee argued that the principle needs to go further to protect licensed premises and local residents in our changing high streets, and that a lack of consistency between the planning and licensing systems—something that it believed needed to be changed anyway—has led to, for example, live venues not being guaranteed to be protected. I will give two quick examples.
The Night & Day Café is a live music venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It opened in 1991 and is the venue that launched the careers of, for example, Elbow and Arctic Monkeys. In November 2021, the venue was served with a noise abatement notice from Manchester City Council. This followed ongoing complaints from local residents who had moved into a new development—warehouses converted into flats—during the Covid pandemic when the venue was temporarily closed. The case provoked a huge degree of interest. Some 94,000 people have signed a petition asking for the notice to be withdrawn, with one signatory describing the situation as
“like moving to Leicester Square and complaining about there being too many cinemas”.
Night & Day Café’s appeal over the order has been adjourned until later this year. It has still not been resolved.
The Jago is a venue in Dalston that hosts live music events, screenings and workshops. It is registered as an asset of community value and is very highly regarded in the local area. It has hosted musicians for almost two decades, but since the pandemic many surrounding buildings have been converted into residential properties, which has led to an increase in noise complaints and, in June 2022, it received a noise abatement notice. It too has been the subject of a petition trying to help, with over 2,500 signatures. Again, its problem has not yet been resolved.
The committee recommended that, to resolve issues such as these, the Government should review and strengthen the agent of change principle and consider incorporating it into the current planning reforms in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. The Government did not disagree, and themselves pointed to the then upcoming Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill as a vehicle to address these concerns. This amendment is simply by way of helping the Government achieve what they agreed was needed: greater clarity about what is expected of councils and businesses. In that light, I hope the Minister will see that the amendment is designed to support and help the Government. I hope she too will support it.