Planning and licensing cover distinct remits in land use regulation. There is a significant new problem in the way these controls relate to each other. This is due to changes in modern living. Local Government and developers are encouraged to build residential accommodation densely in town and city centres. This is regarded as positive in cutting travel, air pollution and encroachment into the countryside. “Vibrant city living” can be incompatible with sleep, however. The current planning and licensing permission regimes are failing to tackle the real-life problems of dense urban development – their rules are founded on out of date assumptions about keeping noise sources and noise receptors separate. The conflict that arises is channelled via complaints through the Environmental Protection regime; commonly through noise abatement notices and enforcement action, which is shutting down licensed premises and particularly music venues. This is an epidemic with catastrophic and irreversible results for venues, and it has escalated sharply in the last ten years.

The Agent of Change principle, developed in the National Planning Policy Framework in April 2018 is inadequate to intervene. Local decision-makers recognise the problems to some degree, but the solutions proposed on a local case by case basis are ad hoc, and chaotic: for example – “Deeds of Easement” and “Agent of Change Agreements”. The costs to local government, businesses and the economy are unacceptable. This is a serious issue that requires national intervention and coordination.

In 2017, the House of Lords Select Committee on the ten-year review of the Licensing Act 2003 made recommendations on these issues. In 2017, the Planning Officer’s Society published a Manifesto proposing significant changes to the planning and licensing regimes. The Raynsford Review into the whole of the planning system, (Town and Country Planning Association November 2018), concluded that the current planning regime is not fit for purpose. Other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Planning issues, including concerted efforts significantly to boost national housing numbers on brownfield land, are very high on the Government’s agenda. In July 2019, Boris Johnson announced the Government’s intention to conduct a review into the planning system. On 30 January 2020, there was a further announcement that the Government will commission a White Paper on Planning and Property. The briefing note published in conjunction with the Queen’s Speech made reference to the delivery of homes; the funding of infrastructure; planning conditions and the performance of planning departments.

It is absolutely vital that this White Paper includes the critical issues identified above, which are proving devastating to the night-time economy and the valuable UK music industry. There is a significant opportunity at this point in time to design our place-making policies across all the regulatory regimes in a co-ordinated and effective way to tackle all the related issues.

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