Planning

SOUND DEVELOPMENT 2019 - ROUND UP


MUSIC, HIGH STREET REGENERATION AND COLLECTIVE ACTION

Guest post by Kat Hanna.


To kick start the Sound Diplomacy events calendar for 2019 and to engage with an increasingly hot topic concerning the urban planning and culture sectors, we hosted Sound Development, our quarterly mini-series discussion at East London’s newest destination, Republic.

We’ve invited our event chair Kat Hanna to provide an overview of the discussion from the event.

Tuesday February 5th, Republic, East India Dock


Whether it’s the almost daily announcement of closures or the empty units that have left high streets looking like gap-toothed smiles, the need for high street regeneration is hard to avoid. Yet while the symptoms of their struggle may be obvious, the cause is harder to diagnose. Too much retail. Not enough quality retail. The rise of online shopping. The decline of community.

As any well-assembled panel will tell you, the answer, of course, is that many high streets are struggling for a number of reasons, and so their regeneration will require a range of solutions. What these solutions have in common, however, is the ability to bring together a range of people to a specific place. In doing so, high streets not only offer what online shopping cannot – shared, embodied, human experience and interaction.

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The evening provided many examples of how music can help address the symptoms of a struggling high street. Dave Gray from Wrexham talked about the transformation of a former JJB Sports store into a community hub, focused around music, yet flexible enough to host exhibitions, meet-ups and all manner of events. Architects Tom and James Teatum emphasised the benefits of high streets that accommodate a range of uses, including residential and manufacturing, rather than simply retail.

But to use music to simply fill empty retail units is to overlook the full potential of music – not just as a source of demand for space, but as a vital contributor to local economies, communities, and individuals themselves. Just as Julia Jones was keen to point out the regenerating the high street should be about more than rescuing retailers, music should be used to generate human interactions, as well as just cash transactions.

Too often, the social and retail functions of the high street are presented as being in opposition to one another. In the recent past, there is perhaps some truth in this, as we today lament the passing of high street chains many communities once blamed for killing off independents. Yet as our discussion revealed, what works for the retail functions of the high street can also work for its social functions, and vice versa. Here’s three key takeaways that stand to benefit both these aspects of a successful high street.

  1. A range of spaces can attract a range of uses: A diversified high street means of mix of uses, and a mix of spaces. This requires a supportive, and perhaps more flexible planning system that encourages co-location and celebrates, or at least tolerates activity (including when its noisy and nocturnal). It requires developers to understand the nuanced needs of potential tenants, providing space suitable for both the production and consumption of music. Contrary to some assumptions, this does not always need to be specialised – as Achar Dillon of Killing Moon pointed out.

  2. Experience is everything: What high streets brands sought to offer based on cost and convenience can no longer compete in the age of online shopping. If retailers want to generate footfall, they must provide what cannot be offered with the swipe of a hand. Music may not be the only way of creating this experience, but its universality, adaptability and accessibility make it a particularly powerful way to do so. As Jennifer Wood from Southwark council highlighted, these qualities make music an increasingly common feature in social prescribing – addressing social, physiological and physical problems with non-medical, community-based solutions.

  3. Communicating value: The ability of music-related uses to animate or adapt of underused or ‘awkward’ spaces should not prohibit long-term investment in real-estate that supports the industry. This requires the music sector to focus on setting out its value, to local economies, high streets, and communities, ensuring that the sector is valued in its own right, not only as a tool used for placemaking or promotion.

As Lawrence Jones from Trilogy emphasises, these principles extend beyond the built form of the high street. Successful spaces, including workplaces, are those that offer a mix of experience, that encourage interaction between users, and that can adapt to a range of use, not just during the lifetime of a building, but the daily routines of an individual.


About the Author, Kat Hanna:

Kat Hanna.jpg

KAT HANNA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, URBAN CHANGE, CUSHMAN AND WAKEFIELD

An experienced urbanist and researcher, Kat Hanna has worked in London politics, planning and policy for the past seven years. Her research interests include urban economies, transport, and the relationship between technology and the built environment. Kat joined Cushman and Wakefield in 2017, focusing on long-term mixed-use development projects in London and trends in how we live, work and move around in cities.

Kat regularly appears as a commentator on urban affairs across a range of publications, media, and events, and was shortlisted for the EG Rising Star Award for 2018.


WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE ‘AGENT OF CHANGE’ PRINCIPLE?


THE UK PLANNING SYSTEM FINALLY RECOGNISES THE ‘AGENT OF CHANGE’ PRINCIPLE. SO NOW WHAT?


This article first appeared in CityMetric

In August 2018, the UK Parliament passed an amendment to the National Planning & Policy Framework (NPPF), including a few sentences collectively referred to as the ‘Agent of Change’ Principle. Now, in England, any new development – residential, commercial or otherwise –planned for a site next to a noise-making premises would need to mitigate any potential risk to the existing premises, before receiving planning permission.

The new rule applies not just for music venues and nightclubs on high streets next to new developments; but also light industrial, factories and ‘back-of-house’ creators, such as art studios, instrument makers and textile manufacturers. It also defends existing residential developments: if a music venue wished to open in a quiet neighbourhood, it would need to demonstrate soundproofing, quiet dispersal and other requirements to get planning permission.

This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a panacea, because there isn’t one. Local plans need to be rewritten and this rule must be respected in local decisions. There will be missteps – but the introduction of Agent of Change is a start to creating a more sustainable, healthy and supportive music and creative ecosystem in London and across England.

But we need to do more. So, what’s next on the list?

Here’s a few ideas that I feel are worth pursuing, so we can make the UK the world’s best place for musicians, creatives and all of us who benefit from, or interact with, their creative output.

1. Ratify Agent of Change in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

This is a simple request, but one which requires local change in each country. Both Scotland and Wales have brought bills to their parliament to introduce this in their planning systems. It would be beneficial for the entire country, not just England, to make Agent of Change law.

2. Re-engage a debate about licensing

This is not specifically a British problem – mixing alcohol, live music and regulation, primarily at night, causes headaches everywhere. From Pittsburgh to Tbilisi, Tokyo to Bogota, striking a balance in regulating the night time economy is a challenge that divides communities.

But the current system here in the UK certainly doesn’t work. Local engagement in licensing hearings is low, and the people who chair and run these committees are often not the same people experiencing, and benefitting from, the activities they are regulating. The average age of a UK Councillor is over 60 (although this is gradually changing); and reactionary decisions create a mistrust in civic society: look at the London Borough of Hackney, for example.

In addition, since last year’s thorough licensing review by the House of Lords, which outlined the failures in the interpretation of the 2003 Licensing Act, nothing’s been done. A reduction in local authority staff and an increase in workload has compounded this problem: complicated, life-altering decisions are being made by those who lack the experience to do so.

The current failing regime is even putting further unnecessary stress on our health and social care system. Folkestone’s licensing framework, for example, recently introduced changes to limit evening and night time economy uses: Kent Online referred to the changes as a “final nail in the city’s coffin”, because it will further lead to the city attracting pensioners, rather than the young workers needed to support social care. This is not inevitable: further up the coast, Margate, is doing the opposite.

Across England, there have been a number of successful schemes promoting the benefits of the Night Time Economy. London has a Night Czar, Manchester a Night Mayor and Plymouth a Night Time Manager. More cities have joined the Purple Flag accreditation scheme for places that offer a good night out.

But such progress is still not reflected in policy. Licensing decisions are still based on negatives. And when locals can object to a business before its doors even open, that objection will be based on what it represents, rather than what it is.

So: let’s talk more about licensing.

3. Prioritise Our Small Towns and Cities More

I’m proud of being a small cog in the big machine that has worked to improve the music policy ecosystem in London. While we’ve had successes, there’s much work to do there.

But I feel now’s the time to prioritise the music infrastructure in our small towns and cities – and recognise that, to incubate talent, we need to start at all sources. Many small towns and cities, from Peterborough to Wells, Oban to Fishguard, have seen decreases in their music infrastructure since 2010. Only a few local music organisations remain – the rest were victims of austerity – and venues in which to play are closing, with new artists now relying on their parents, or infrequent night buses, to take advantage of performance opportunities.

This creates a talent development framework that relies more on uploading covers to YouTube than on engaging with one’s peers. Mix that with a reduction in music education provision, less budget for music services and the closure of youth clubs, and you get a perfect storm in which, in essence, we forget about the talent in our small towns and cities.

This must change. We need a national music towns strategy to audit existing infrastructure, ensure it is protected through the planning and licensing system as best as possible, and provide the tool for local authorities to better promote venues. We need a mechanism to turn vacant buildings over to creatives, on peppercorn rent, as practice facilities. We need all BIDs and LEPs to develop music policies and treat music as an industry, like any other. All this is possible.

We have much work to do in the UK. Here’s hoping next year, we have more to celebrate to ensure we’re continually creating the most music friendly country on the planet.


MUSIC. IT’S ALL PART OF THE MASTERPLAN.


MUSIC. IT’S ALL PART OF THE MASTERPLAN.

Guest post by Ben Reed.


The masterplanning process is flawed. And it’s adversely affecting people's lives and wellbeing.

Let's look at why the masterplanning is often a complex process and needs to be modernised to lead with a 'consumer first' approach.

Tangentially, if masterplanning is straightforward, why has the number of residential planning applications in London fallen by nearly a third, year-on-year, in the first quarter of 2018? Read more here.

So, what jumps out when looking at, or creating, a masterplan? Are you looking at streets, public squares and places? Are you looking at pedestrian routes, rights of light, vehicle movement, tech infrastructure and green spaces? Or are you looking at planning use classes, residential and commercial space quantums and how best to get planning permission?

It's fair to say that most developers are looking at the masterplan as part of a project workstream, a vehicle to get funding, a robust cost model, and finally, planning permission to deliver a successful project - and make a tidy profit. On the other end of the spectrum, the architects, engineers and masterplanners are caught up with the detail, mix of uses and sensitivities to the neighbouring areas.

So, who is looking at the consumer and resident journey? Where is the pub? Where is the music venue? Where do you walk and know you may bump into a friend or get lost? Where can you create and make things? How will the masterplan foster a community? These considerations are not the role of a placemaking agency to action because they are appointed too late in the process, nor should this be the role of a public art agency.

I feel that masterplanning needs to draw from the experience of cultural and music experts - right from the embryonic stages. Use people who know how to create places that have the best possible chance of being popular and successful - places that are in tune with the needs of the community and visitors. This ensures that things are built to the right spec, will attract the right operators and tenants, will stand the test of time and generate revenue.

For help with your next mixed-use project contact Sound Diplomacy.


About the Author, Ben Reed:

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With 20 years spent in the advertising world, Ben has built up a network of brands and businesses interested in exploring new ways to connect with their customers and places. Ben's focus is to work with global brands on how to sculpt powerful brand experiences within physical spaces.

Ben has seen placemaking inform the complex masterplanning process for large regeneration projects, but now sees placemaking as an overused term – so Developers, Councils and Cities are drilling down into what it actually means.

Ben is a guest contributor to Sound Diplomacy and a member of the London Music Board.


Why Cities Should Be Planned for Night – and Not Just Day


This article first appeared in NewCities

Image: toyechkina - Adobe

Image: toyechkina - Adobe

The Anglo-Saxon planning system that guides our towns and cities in North America is not fit for purpose. The reason I say this is that the rules and guidelines that determine what is built where and why ignores the length of our day. The concept and practice of planning urban areas is tailored almost exclusively to daytime functions. This means, intentionally or not, the needs of the nighttime are overlooked from a planning perspective. This creates significant tension in our town centres and central business districts around the world.

This is one of the primary reasons cultural and entertainment venues are struggling in city centres around the world. In London, one-third of all music venues have closed in the last ten years and around half of all nightclubs. In Toronto, seven music venues have closed in 2017 alone. These trends are echoed everywhere. If these challenges are addressed in planning, we can surmise that two opposing needs of urban residents at night – those who want to sleep and those who want to go out – are not considered at the same time and place, making it difficult to consciously cater for both. Planning, being a blunt tool, classifies commercial, industrial or residential, leaving little leeway for culture as growing pressure on living space means residential areas are encroaching into crowded urban areas, putting residents closer to entertainment or commercial uses. If managed appropriately through mixed-use planning, strict guidelines and modern development practices, this would energise our towns and cities.  Instead, in practice, it leads to noise complaints, ordinances, infractions and conflicts.

No one individual is to blame and there is no single reason why businesses close their doors. But, if we take a closer look at our cities’ blueprints and explore how our cities are mapped, designated and planned, planning for nighttime is frighteningly absent. While all cities need more homes for more people, the cultural reasons many of us choose life in cities are under threat. I believe this boils down to the historical framework that guides how we plan. If we plan for the daytime but license at night, we create a reactionary system after 7:00 p.m. where everyone loses. If buildings are not fit for purpose, for example, or allowed to be constructed without considering their local environment, those that inhabit them are affected. It makes it incredibly difficult to positively plan for all scenarios.

We need a global, 24-hour planning system to ensure we are building better towns and cities for us all, whatever activities we choose to participate in after 7:00 p.m. There are many examples of city leaders demonstrating tools and mechanisms that work through planning. In San Francisco, the city entertainment licensing agency, the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, are statutory consultees on planning applications within 300 feet of an entertainment premises. This includes condos, office blocks and hotels. In London, music venues are being planned within mixed use developments from the very beginning of the master planning process, including one in Vicarage Field in the city’s eastern suburbs and the Old Vinyl Factory, in the west. In New York City, the Mayor is creating a Nighttime Ambassador position to tackle a host of issues including burdensome regulations for licensed operators. In the United States alone, over 40 cities have a Nighttime Mayor or a Nighttime Manager. The State of Florida is even developing a network to support them. Much of this work is about compliance, policing, safety and noise, but it legitimises a need to plan at night – and provides the appropriate support to manage this plan.

Much of this is framed around the need to increase nightlife, but this is not the case. It is about legitimising, planning and thinking about life at night – from now into the future – and how it affects the places we choose to live. Only London has a vision for developing and managing its nighttime economy – and it is less than one month old – a document that proactively projects and proposes a plan, rather than waiting for something to happen. This is just beginning. Every city should plan all day, all 24 hours, and while life at night means something different in each city, every city experiences night, and it is the same amount of time for all of us.


BUILDING A STRONG NIGHT TIME ECONOMY


To build a strong night time economy, our city planners need to learn to feel the music


This article first appeared in CityMetric

Image: Drew De F Fawkes

Image: Drew De F Fawkes

Cities in the UK, from London to Belfast, are updating their local plans to outline how land will used from now through to 2035. These plans are blunt, top-down instruments to outline what land is earmarked for residential, employment, commercial and so on. 

Historically, master plans have skirted over how culture and the night time economy might fit within these expansive spacial plans, but this impacts how equipped each plan is to support and develop such uses for the next 15-20 years. While employment land can differentiate between light industrial or commercial, for example, a cultural use is often assigned long after the local plan is written, after extensive consultations and amendments.

Often they are placed into a more general commercial use, or in some cases, sandwiched into tourism objectives. If culture is specifically mentioned, the use is often based on specific plot of land; we want that theatre there, this arena here, and so on.  This can be encouraged through the creation of a cultural quarter – such as the redevelopment of London’s Olympic Park - but this is defined through tenants.  A museum arrives and a cultural quarter is born.  The issue of incorporating the nighttime economy in these long-term plans remains a challenge. 

There’s a problem here. These plans are not in line with other discussions, often held outside of planning circles, about the types of cities we want to live in.

Take music as one example.  Since 2015, over three-dozen cities around the world have harboured public aspirations to become ‘music cities’, from Gothenburg in Sweden to Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Hastings in the UK and Bogota in Colombia.

But the needs of music, be it for performers, consumers or investors, are conceived as just inserting music into pre-determined, already accepted plans.  This leads to assessing the value of music through the industry’s lens, such as how much the industry is worth in a particular place. While important, music is inserted into the discussion too late. What happens are issues that planning cannot fix, which leads to licensing, regulation and restriction. If music was incorporated more bluntly into local plan making, this could change. 

The same goes for nighttime economy. Much of its literature is framed on restriction, rather than promotion. This is because our land use planning, zoning and use classification did not delve into how night-time uses (such as leisure) and day time uses (such as commercial or residential) can co-exist. While homes exist above venues in Belgium and Germany, it is unheard of in the UK.  As a result, cities were not planned to be 24-hour organisms, ultimately limiting opportunities and causing friction, instead of pragmatically approaching nighttime uses in the same way we see daytime. 

As a result, in local plans, the terms ‘music’, ‘culture’ and‘night time economy’ have been markedly absent and when they are included, their focus is on stopping people from doing something, rather than encouraging more varied activities and planning accordingly. Again, the egg came after the chicken and cities were stuck with managing their music and nighttime economies with existing local plans that neither mentioned the term, nor planned its land to accommodate such practices.

With cities continuing to expand at record levels, we need to change how we plan them for the future. To do so, we must bring music and the nighttime economy into the fold of the planning process.  Music’s role at the earliest stage of district or development planning can be anchors in getting people to want to move to a new area. Nighttime activity, when managed carefully and considerately, can coexist with residential space and flourish with commercial life, with libraries, gyms, cafes and restaurants. 

For this to happen in the UK, we need to plan for the other 9-to-5 in our local plans. And in doing so, we must still prioritise housing and local services, but ensure local plans outline – in the broadest sense – why people move to a place and what makes it worth living in. And if successful, cities will be rewarded with more jobs, greater access to services and greater community inclusiveness. We must plan for the night as we do for the day.

To do so, we need global standards to include music and night time economy in the earliest stages of master and local plan making. We need planners and musicians to converse as much as councillors and residents. And we need to think long and hard about the cities we wish to live in by 2035. 

We do this for transport, health care, sewage and utilities; it’s time to do it for music and the nighttime economy. 


WHAT CAN MUSIC VENUES LEARN LEARN FROM BETTING SHOPS?


What can music venues learn from betting shops?


This article first appeared in CityMetric

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

In March 2015, an amendment to the law altered the way that betting shops, bookies and pawnshops were classified by the planning system. From 23 March of that year, such premises were reclassified from A2 to Sui Generis.

To those unfamiliar with the minutiae of the General Permitted Development Order, A2 includes finance and professional services, including finance and banking, building societies and estate agents. Betting shops inclusion in this use class came out of the 2005 Gambling Act, a heavily lobbied-for set of legislation which regulated the sector.

When a building is classed as A2, permitted development rights mean it could change to A1 (shops), A3 (food and drink), A4 (pubs) and A5 (hot food / takeaway). This doesn’t mean that betting shops became pubs – but it did mean they were able to occupy high streets units (i.e. places that used to be A1, A3, A4 or A5) without planning permission.

Furthermore, as A2, betting shops, bookies and pawnshops were able to argue successfully that their businesses served a banking and financial role in our towns or cities. Such businesses were thus given precedence on our high streets, and there was no tool to reject a change of use from a disused cafe, for example. After all, we all need banks and building societies.

 A decade on, we see the result of such a use change. Merton and Newham councils in London, for example, have faced significant challenge and litigation from the gambling lobby. And across the country local authorities have had to allocate millions of pounds to challenging this use – often by using Article 4 Directions, in which councils can override permitted development rights by appealing directly to the Secretary of State.

Thankfully, now the use has been changed to Sui Generis, meaning "in a class by itself". This class does not permit a change of use: you can no longer simply switch a building A3 (disused cafe) to A2 (new betting shop).

As a result, if one wants to open a bookies now, the application will be treated on its own merits: there’s no longer a clause that allows them to occupy a site without planning consent. All this has made them less probable to spring up on high streets where there are already two or three in place.

So, why does this matter for music venues and nightclubs? Such venues are classed in a complex way. More often than not, they're D2, which is "Assembly and Leisure". Sometimes, they’re A4, pubs. And some are also classed as sui generis – for example, if a cafe is bolted on. This means that where they can be, and how they are classed by Britain’s planning sector, is treated on a case-by-case basis.

Music lessons

But what works now with betting shops does not work for music venues: I propose that we take a lesson from the gambling lobby and do what they managed to do in reverse. We should create a use class for music venues, or at least create more specific planning guidelines for them, to protect and promote their use and value.

By doing this, we can prohibit a change in use. That would mean that, once a venue, it can always be a venue. At least as long as business allows: if a venue closes due to bankruptcy that is one thing. But many close due to change of use, not business reasons. This would address that.

When local and regional authorities map cities and town centres, a number of uses are drawn up and allocated space, according to what is deemed best for the local community. It is top down and not specific, but does prioritise some uses over others. For example, one plot of land may be classified as residential (A1); the plot across the street finance (A2). And over there is a Church (D2), and next to it a café or restaurant (A3).

But through this process, more often than not unintentionally, we deprioritise certain uses because they are more difficult, in planning terms, to administer. This is the challenge facing music venues: they are often left off the map, even though A4 or D2 is prioritised in the part of the National Planning Policy Framework covering town and city centres.

What this does is over-emphasise day-time use, leaving night time use less allocated or thought through. As a result, we are left with reactive licensing conditions to “plan” the night – because it’s trickier than other uses more synonymous with daytime (for example, retail).

Lessons learnt

This lack of a more specific use class for music venues and nightclubs means that their specific characteristics – including the loading in and out, entry and exit of people flow and other matters – are not widely understood and often clash with the local planning framework as it currently stands.

That framework often creates further challenges and conflicts with other uses, such as residential. And no matter how forward thinking a planning consent is, if noise becomes an issue, the problem reverts to a licensing officer, who is rightly not concerned with what use class a building is.

More defined, structured guidance is what is required to mitigate these potential challenges and support all our cities and town centres: it would give music venues and nightclubs a more defined place, in all our places. This is not happening at present, as in London, for example, we are still losing venues, nightclubs and even pubs, due to planning issues.

While we cannot change what has already been planned, across the country, a number of large scale developments are being planned right now. At the same time, local authorities are revisiting their long term visions, from Shoreditch to Leeds city centre. Here we have an opportunity to safeguard our music venues, nightclubs and entertainment premises for the future, while respecting the rights of those to sleep.

And so, I propose we identify and define a specific use for such venues, at least in terms of guidance. I propose a use-class that is less blunt, and focuses on the benefits of music venues and nightclubs, rather than attempting to shoehorn them into a class that may not suit them.

The new categorisation could blend D2, A4 and sui generis, and include all "gatherings of individuals to hear amplified music in a licensed (or teetotal) premises", or something to that effect. If the gambling sector can successfully lobby to be defined as finance, music venues can lobby to be better designated in – and so supported by – planning law.

If we value our town centres, our development areas and our night-time economy, we need to better understand how they respond to, impact and are influenced by our planning law. In the UK, we have very few planning guidelines to govern and support what happens when the sun goes down. Let’s start by copying those clever betting shop lobbyists. Let’s provide a use class for music venues.


MUSIC CITIES: WHY MUSIC IS A TOOL FOR URBAN DEVELOPMENT


Music Cities: Why music is a tool for urban development


This article first appeared on Ciudades Sostenibles Blog

Image: John R Rogers

Image: John R Rogers

Many cities have found music to be a way to fulfill some of their socio-economic objectives, on top of those that are specifically cultural. For example, Austin (Texas, USA) or Adelaide (Australia) have been declared musical cities and have developed innovative and creative strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that the music industry has to offer.

Other cities and organizations have followed their lead, making music a driver of progress worldwide:

  • Amsterdam was the first city to choose a night-time mayor, a figure responsible for coordinating and strengthening the nightlife and music scene in the Dutch capital.

  • In South Africa, the organisation Bridges for Music uses music as a medium for social integration and to raise awareness about development issues.

  • In the UK, UK Music produces annual reports on the impact of musical tourism over the local economy.

In 2004, UNESCO established the Creative Cities Network in order to promote international cooperation among cities that see creativity as a means for sustainable development and urban progress, as well as a tool for social integration and the preservation of cultural diversity. Since then, about 20 cities have been named musical cities by UNESCO, including Bogota, Medellin, Kingston and Salvador.

Bogota was the fifth city and the first in Latin America to join this network. In a city with an active and prosperous music scene like Bogota, this appointment promoted the creation and implementation of policies dedicated to put music at the center of city life. Since then, Bogotá has developed and implemented a series of public policies to foster greater intercultural dialogue by using music as a tool for social transformation and to overcome some of the city’s main challenges.

An example of these policies is Bogotá’s Music Plan, created in collaboration with several industry players, both public and private. This plan looks at issues such as training, creating musical circuits and the protection of spaces dedicated to live music. One of the measures taken within the plan was the creation of Bogota’s Music Cluster in February 2015 in order to strengthen the pillars that directly affect the industry’s competitiveness—development and innovation, promotion and marketing, regulation and human talent—and to transform the city into the main music business centre in Latin America.

What can Latin American cities do to promote their development through music?

Like Bogota, other cities in the region can also develop strategies to enhance their music industry, and to join the global movement to make music a driver of development. In 2015, under the slogan “a strong and sustainable music industry is the most efficient way to build, maintain and expand vibrant and economically prosperous cities,” the Music Cities Convention was born: an event created by consulting firm Sound Diplomacy and by Martin Elbourne—co-founder of the festivals like The Great Escape and WOMAD—in order to regularly bring together representatives of local governments, legislators, academics, agents of the music industry and urban planners to analyze the role of the music industry as a tool for:

  • Creating jobs

  • Increasing local revenue without raising taxes

  • Streamlining and promoting public transport

  • Managing tourism

  • Regenerating urban areas

  • Retaining and attracting talent and investments

  • Social integration and the rationalization of urban infrastructure.

Since its first edition in Brighton in 2015, the Convention held a second edition in Washington DC and is preparing for a third meeting in the city of Brighton on May 18. This new edition will bring together professionals and thinkers like Carlos Chirinos, a professor at NYU and promoter of the song “Africa Stop Ebola” to raise awareness and educate the population of Guinea about this disease; Mirik Milan, the Night Mayor of Amsterdam; and Eddie Bridgeman, the director of Space Meanwhile, among others.


SUPPORTING NIGHT TIME ECONOMY THROUGH PLANNING


In Britain, planning stops when the sun goes down – and it's hurting our night-time venues


This article first appeared in CityMetric

Image: Darrell Berry

Image: Darrell Berry

London has never been a 24 hour city. We’ve all experienced the difficulty of getting something to eat that’s even marginally healthy after 11pm.

There is a reason for this, and it is not cultural, but legislative. Our planning system is designed to guide uses from sunrise to sunset, not sunset to sunrise.

That’s because it is much simpler to govern daytime activities than those that happen after dark: most shops keep pretty regular trading hours. But pubs, nightclubs and other businesses that trade after dark are more variable, and more difficult to standardise.

As a result, Britain’s national planning laws are more suitable to what happens during the day. This leaves a much more variable, piecemeal system to manage the night time.

Our National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been deprioritised by our current government. But it nonetheless offers detailed guidance concerning standard building practices, retail trading hours, transport systems and so on: there is one system that informs all activities during the day.

At night, this system is replaced by an altogether different system that we call “licensing”, which differs from council to council. It is this system of licensing, and what it is doing to how we treat our night time economy, that needs to change.  

Britain is one of the most restrictive developed nations in its licensing policies. When councils develop such policies, they design them to be relevant to the local needs of the residents and businesses. However, they’re answerable to voters – and those who are mostly likely to vote are often not the people most likely to go to bars, pubs and nightclubs.

The result is a patchwork of restrictions that make little sense. Some nightclubs claim they have to satisfy over 70 licensing restrictions to operate: licensing covers everything from health and safety, to nuisance prevention, to the right to serve alcohol. But it does so without a framework of guidance.

One must regulate what can and cannot happen at night; but the regulations being proposed fundamentally ignore the fact that there is an economic ecosystem at night, just as there is during the day. Yet there’s no structured planning guidance to account for this for this. Planning is calculated, prescribed and didactic; licensing is individualistic and reactionary.

By way of example, consider the noise complaints made about commercial venues. Such complaints are common, and have resulted in a number of music venues and nightclubs being threatened with closure. Ministry of Sound spent nearly £1m fighting such issues; The Fleece in Bristol is embroiled in complaints right now.

Tackling such complains through licensing is clearly not working. In the Ministry of Sound case, a planning decision settled the challenge: the developer agreeed to a “Deed of Easement” notice, meaning those who buy the flats have to accept the club and its activities, as long as it does not breach its regulations. But it took a fortune and much fighting to reach that conclusion, and a licensing problem was solved only through common sense planning law. The Fleece’s situation still remains precarious.

Both situations are the result of a lack of night time planning structure in the UK. We use licensing conditions to solve issues that should have pre-arranged solutions in the NPPF.

There are other options. Some cities have night mayors (Amsterdam, Rotterdam). Others have night time entertainment commissions (San Francisco). But in London, we don’t have a planning framework to support our nightlife: policy assumes that most of us go home by 10pm, and those that don’t are considered a nuisance.

The night-time economy isn’t disappearing. It’s growing, and our cities are better for it. At some point, London will welcome the 24 hour tube. It’s time we noticed that and began planning to make it even better, for those who go out – and those who stay in.


BRITAIN'S PLANNING LAWS ON MUSIC


Britain's planning rules are ruining its music industry. Here's how.


This article first appeared in CityMetric

Image: Daniel Latham/Wikimedia Commons

Image: Daniel Latham/Wikimedia Commons

In early July, The Troubadour, an independent pub in London's Earl’s Court district, was put up for sale. Its owners, Simon and Susie Thornhill, told the Evening Standard that the closure of their rear terrace, prompted by noise complaints and a subsequent enforcement action by Kensington & Chelsea council, had reduced their takings, making the business unviable.

The Troubadour is one of the more storied venues in London. It has hosted live music since 1954; as recently as 2011, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards played there. But with Earl’s Court now being redeveloped into housing and a new town centre, it was the last such venue in the area. Its current challenges are disappointing.

When discussing the problems faced by live music venues today, the debate tends to focus more on the micro side of things – individual cases, like that of the Troubadour – than the macro, in the form of a larger, more worrying problem threatening all our cultural spaces, including venues.  

This problem is the way our planning laws are often used to undermine and deprioritise the creative industries. The Troubadour’s fate notwithstanding, we need to understand how the national laws – and their local interpretations – that guide city planning impact our venues, pubs, theatres and community spaces.

Our planning system has become increasingly focused on private concerns, rather than on building and sustaining the places that makes our cities worth living in for all of us. This is not our planning sector’s fault; nor is it that of our developers. It’s the law. And it needs to change.

Since the coalition government came to power in 2010, our national planning policy framework (NPPF) has become skewed so that decision making focuses on how expensive a piece of land is, rather than the collective impact, inside and outside, that building on it will have. Proposals are judged on the concept of "sustainable development".

But sustainability, in this context, is not the same as liveability. It is a financial equation. And the biggest losers, it seems, are those in need of affordable housing, or places to create, whether that's a venue, a community centre or a rehearsal space; anywhere, in fact, that doesn't generate immediate profit for stakeholders.

Here are a few examples. Few of those in the creative industries understand the arcane ecosystem surrounding viability assessments. These are mathematical equations to determine how viable (or not) a development is: in planning vernacular, “viability” is defined as a development that brings profits of 20 per cent or more to the investor (in most cases, a private developer).

Viability assessments are done on a case-by-case basis. What they mean in aggregate, though, is that planning permission is most likely to be granted at the behest of private stakeholders, rather than because of housing or community demand.

This impacts how much affordable housing is built, as Oliver Wainwright cleverly explains in this article in the Guardian. It also makes it more difficult to justify retaining venues on valuable land that could be put to another use (flats, for example). If redevelopment does not bring at least 20 per cent profit to the developer, than the project is not deemed, in our policy framework, viable.  Here, it is not those building on the land that need to change; it's the laws they follow.

This problem is compounded by the deregulation of building use change rules, introduced by the previous government and expanded by the current one. These changes mean that a venue (or a pub, or an office) can now be turned into flats with minimal planning consent. If the venue is not deemed profitable, if flats would provide a greater return to the landowners, that venue isn't viable.

There's more. Where a change of use is denied by a planner, when it goes to appeal, the decision is often reversed: the viability assessment is everything.

As a result, planners are forced to be more creative in finding ways to challenge these changes: fighting appeals using arcane sewage treatment bylaws, say, or finding breaches in applications due to cycling provisions.

There's another issue our planning laws make worse: this one involves noise complaints, which are often blamed for the closure of venues and other creative spaces.

The Fleece is Bristol is another venue under threat right now, as is The Arches in Glasgow. Both examples are down to new housing developments nearby, and residents complaints about the noise from both the music itself and from patrons smoking outside. Where councils issue venues with compliance order, they lose out on revenues from, for example, the closure of a patio or back garden.

Here, the law favours the complainant, not the original use – even though the venue was there before they were. In law, noise is considered a “material consideration”: issues surrounding it are enforceable, regardless of who was there first.

The need to build more housing is creating more strained relationships between residents and those running our night-time economies. Such is the case on the London Borough of Hackney right now, where the council is threatening to restrict bars and clubs’ opening hours, a move that could decimate an economy that employs thousands of people. The term used in the draft policy document is that venues and clubs are “not considered appropriate".

The solution to this problem does not lie in addressing individual cases, but in changing our planning laws. When a new use is introduced into an area – such as a block of flats in a town centre – those introducing this new use should be required to respect the existing licensees provisions.

That would mean that, if a venue makes the same amount of noise before but there are now residents living closer to it, it is the developer’s responsibility to provide the necessary compliance (like soundproofing). As long as the venue doesn’t breach its existing license, they'd have to respect it.

These rules, called the Agent of Change principle, have been applied in the Australian city of Melbourne. In our national planning policy framework, these regulations exist in principle, but not in practice. This needs to change, nationwide.

Britain's music venues are part of our quality of life ecosystem, like our theatres, museums and restaurants. But they are closing at an alarming rate, and our planning laws are making this worse.

And it's not only harming our venues, but our developers, too. In Dalston, the advertising for a new Taylor Wimpey development called Dalston Square tells you that you can discover new music and culture by purchasing a £450k flat. The places where you can do so are under increasing threat.

Until we look at how our planning laws impact our venues, cultural spaces and quality of life, we will continue to see stories like that of The Troubadour. We need to understand and positively assess the economic value of our night-time economies, and the businesses that rely on these spaces to trade and develop. And this starts with how we plan.