Agent of Change letter agreed

A letter is to be written by Aberdeen City Council to the Scottish Government asking it to embed the agent of change principle in the next version of Scottish Planning Policy.

The City Council’s Communities, Housing and Infrastructure committee agreed the move today (Thurs) at a meeting in the Town House.

The committee members agreed the letter should be written asking for the policy change with similar wording to Section 123 of England’s National Planning Frame.

The Agent of Change Principle states that the person or business responsible for a change is also responsible for managing the impact of the change. This means that an apartment block built near an established live music venue that would create a nuisance for residents would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in a residential area would be responsible for the costs of mitigating its impact on adjoining residents.

A resident who moves next door to a music venue would, in law, be assessed as having made that decision understanding that there is going to be some music noise, and a music venue that buys a new sound system would be expected to carry out tests to make sure the noise emissions form the venue would not increase.

At the moment, UK law says that whoever is making a nuisance is always responsible for that nuisance. Pertinent considerations such as how long the venue has existed, whether there were any historic instances of the same noise being a nuisance or whether somebody knowingly moved right next door to the noise are currently not relevant to British law. If a noise exists, residents can move next to it and demand it be turned off and UK law will support that.

Aberdeen City Council Communities, Housing and Infrastructure convener Councillor Neil Cooney said: “We welcome the representations which have been made to us for the agency of change principal and hope it can be changed at a national level.”

The report to committee said it is considered that the principle is already effectively an integral part of existing Planning and Environmental Health legislation and regulations and, consequently, the day to day operation of these two services in terms of assessing planning applications and enforcing noise complaints.

Thee report what with that in mind, it is considered that adopting the “agent of change principle” for the purposes of the operation of these two services would have no significant financial or resource implications for the Council in as far as it constitutes a continuation of the principles and practices already carried out by the respective services.

The Agent of Change Principle has been adopted as law in Australia and has been a matter of debate for a number of years in England. This has been led by the music industry which is concerned about impact of residential uses being created close to live music venues, resulting in noise complaints and consequent impact of enforcement of noise abatement orders by Councils on these venues – sometimes forcing the closure of these venues.

The principle has been influential in the wording of Section 123 of the English National Planning Framework, the equivalent of Scottish Planning Policy in England.

The committee further agreed today that a report is presented to its November committee on the lengths of time taken by music venues and other licensed premises to implement measures to ‘prevent or counteract the effects’ of any noise after a Noise Abatement Notice has been served.