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News From Westminster- By David Warburton MP

As a teenager – like so many who came before and the swelling numbers who’ve followed on – perhaps life’s greatest pleasure was strapping on an electric guitar and clambering onto a small stage with an enthusiastic band, an over-sized PA and an optimistic view of our chances of distributing some entertainment.

Given a following wind, we were able to inflict joy on hundreds of innocent bystanders. And we administered this pain from pubs, clubs and smallish halls, each of which was free to invite bands to perform, comfortable in the knowledge that any local residents who might not take lightly to “wild thing” at farm equipment volume being piped through their living room windows must have known what to expect before they signed on the dotted line and unpacked the first box.

Now though, things have changed. Yes, the live music industry contributes £1billion to the economy, music tourism generates £4billion and over 30 million people attended live events in 2016.  Yes, the overall picture for live music would seem to be healthy, but there are also some fault lines. The figures hide a 13% drop in the level of spending at smaller music venues – those with capacity of under 1,500 – and many say they are under threat.

This is because planning laws mean that you can build your dream home right next door to the town’s live music venue and then demand that they pay for the sound-proofing you need to watch Britain’s Got Talent without hearing the real thing from next door. It doesn’t make sense.

So I’ve this week called on the government to support Labour MP John Spellar’s forthcoming ‘Agent of Change’ Bill, which will put the onus on the developer making the change in the environment – the ‘agent of change’ – to take responsibility for the impact of any development on the music venue – or the speedway track – or the trumpet factory.  In other words, the developer has to cough up for the sound-proofing, rather than the venue which was there first.

The Mayor of London last week endorsed the idea, as did both former culture minister Ed Vaizey and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Music, which I chair. There’s also been an assortment of positive noises emanating from various government departments, so either the tealeaves seem favourable or perhaps the cabinet is forming a band.

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