Big Breakthrough in the Fight to protect Grassroots Music Venues

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 has just published its findings, and it’s great news for Grassroots Music Venues and fans of live music.

“The Committee was shocked by some of the evidence it received on hearings before licensing committees. Their decisions have been described as ‘something of a lottery‘, ‘lacking formality‘, and ‘indifferent‘, with some ‘scandalous misuses of the powers of elected local councillors‘. Pubs, clubs and live music venues are a vital part of our cultural identity. Any decline in our cities’ world-famous night life ought to be prevented and the businesses supported.” said the committee Chair Baroness McIntosh of Pickering.

To address these issues, the committee has recommended:

1. Agent of Change principle be adopted in both planning and licensing guidance to help protect both licensed premises and local residents from consequences arising from any new built development in their nearby vicinity.

What this means: The Music Venue Trust campaign, kick started by Frank Turner in 2015, to get Agent of Change protection for Grassroots Music Venues is now an official recommendation to HM Government. Agent of Change, thanks to everyone who fought so long and hard for it, is coming.

The days when someone can move in next door to a Grassroots Music Venue and get it closed down with a noise complaint are nearly over. Goodbye Norman.

2. Abolition of the Late Night Levy.

What this means: Some Grassroots Music Venues have found themselves paying out additional money just to carry out their normal business, a hidden tax on simply being open later. Despite lots of evidence that supermarkets and off licences are increasingly the drivers of anti-social drinking, which is discussed extensively in the report,  venues have found themselves penalised because of their hours of operation.

The committee has called on HM Government to abolish the Late Night Levy, which will support important spaces like our Music Venues Alliance members The Dublin Castle and Phoenix Artist Bar. The less money these spaces are wasting on poorly designed taxes which do little to protect residents or promote a safe environment , the more they have to bring great culture to new audiences.

3. The introduction of a Night Czar in London is warmly welcomed and the committee wants to see this role replicated in other UK cities.

What this means: Following the Music Venue Trust recommendation to appoint a Night Mayor for London, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan created the role of Night Czar in 2016 and appointed Amy Lame. In Manchester, Andy Burnham MP has committed to the creation of a Night Czar in his manifesto to become the Mayor.

In Edinburgh, the City Council are considering a night time role. The current problems in Cardiff illustrate that a specific role that attempts to balance the night time economy and the needs of local residents is sorely missed. We hope cities right across the UK will look at this recommendation and get in touch with us; we can help you design a relevant role that mediates the needs of everybody.

4. The Government made a substantial error in creating new committees for local authorities to deal with licensing.

  • The evidence received about the poor operation of licensing committees was convincing and the committee was extremely concerned by what it heard.
  • Planning committees are more effective and reliable, and are well-equipped for making licensing decisions. They should take over the licensing function. Coordination between the licensing and planning systems should begin immediately.
  • Licensing appeals should no longer go to magistrates’ courts but should, like planning appeals, go to the planning inspectorate.

What this means: Grassroots Music Venues right across the country have told us that licensing has been haphazard, irrational and often simply incomprehensible. Grassroots Music Venues have exhaustive premises licences detailing strange and unusual conditions such as how they should run their cloak room, what customers should wear, how many tables and chairs should be made available before music can be played. In all cases we looked at, and presented to the committee, Grassroots Music Venues have substantial conditions on their licence which exceed those of similar sized public houses in close proximity. The creation of the Live Music Act 2012 should have brought that to an end, but although the act is quite clear about how spaces less than 500 do not require licensing of their live music, local authorities have failed to act on the intent of the act. Bringing planning and licensing under one professional body is a huge step forward in ending a system that frequently felt unfair and biased against Grassroots Music Venues.

“The House of Lords Select Committee has really listened to what Grassroots Music Venues had to say” said Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd. “This report contains four significant steps which we hope HM Government will respond to quickly. We warmly welcome the work done by the committee, which could make a real difference to the members of the Music Venues Alliance and Grassroots Music Venues right across the country“.

Music Venue Trust would like to thank everyone out there who has played a role in bringing forward such a fantastic report and progress for Grassroots Music Venues, particularly our partners at UK Music, Musicians Union and Live Nation, who provided such excellent information to the committee. There’s still a lot more to do. The fight continues. 

2017-12-13T17:58:25+00:00April 4th, 2017|

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