14 February 2018

The Planning (Agent of Change) Bill 2017-19 is scheduled to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons in March. This follows government statements on the introduction of new planning policy for developers of housing, which, if brought into effect, will require developers to bear the cost of considering neighbouring venues and businesses.  The draft new London Plan, currently under consultation, also contains the principle.

What will change with the Agent of Change?

Traditionally, when new housing developments have been built next to existing businesses or venues, it has been down to those businesses or venues to bear the cost of the complaints that could arrive from their new neighbours. Music venues are perhaps the most obvious example. If a housing developer builds next to a music venue and the new residents complain about the noise, the music venue has to bear the cost of handling those complaints and their sometimes expensive consequences. This situation will change with the introduction of the 'Agent of Change' principle and the possible passage of the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill 2017-19.

What is the Agent of Change?

The Agent of Change principle refers to the idea that the person making the change should bear the cost of the effects of that change. The government plans to change existing policy to embrace this principle and, in doing so, place the burden firmly on developers to identify and take steps to mitigate the effects of housing people near existing venues and businesses.

In the case of music venues, this means developers of neighbouring housing will need to identify the risk of noise problems and then take steps to mitigate them, for example by sound-proofing the development. The same principle will apply for developments next to other types of existing venue and business as well. It will also apply in reverse, meaning that the developer of a music venue next to existing housing would bear the cost of managing the effects the music venue would have on the neighbouring residents.

Why the Agent of Change?

The introduction of the Agent of Change principle is widely considered to be a necessary step to solve an existing injustice. Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has emphasised the Agent of Change principle is intended to be a positive step for both music venues and their neighbours.

Supporters of the principle are optimistic that music venues will enjoy a sense of protection from the change of policy and will be protected from the claims of new neighbouring residents. New residents will also gain the protections they need (for example, sound-proofing) because issues will be addressed before they arise, rather than at the end of a drawn-out complaints process after moving in. It is hoped that the Agent of Change principle will improve resident satisfaction while also removing a significant issue that is currently troubling the country’s music industry.

What happens next?

The possible policy change follows consultation on the government’s Housing White Paper of February 2017, which proposed the National Planning Policy Framework should emphasise that planning policies and decisions take account of existing organisations and businesses. The government is due to consult on the updated National Planning Policy Framework in spring this year.

The second reading of the Bill is currently scheduled for 16 March 2018. The passing of the bill would reinforce the Agent of Change principle by putting it on a statutory footing.

For any advice on the proposed policy changes or development near to existing businesses or venues, please contact Gary Soloman in the planning and compulsory purchase team or Ross Polkinghorne in our real estate development team.

Key contact

Gary Soloman

Gary Soloman Partner

  • Head of Planning and Compulsory Purchase
  • Regeneration and Highways
  • Compulsory Purchase and Compensation

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