1. A new State Planning Policy recognising the importance of live music, that will have effect in every planning scheme in every municipality:
To recognize the social, economic and cultural benefits of live music and encourage, create and protect opportunities for the enjoyment of live music.
- Identify areas where live music entertainment is encouraged or where there are high concentrations of licensed premises or clusters of live music venues, and implement measures to protect and enhance the social, economic and cultural benefits that such areas offer to the community.
- Implement measures to encourage the retention of existing, and the development of new, live music entertainment venues.
- Implement measures to ensure live music venues can co-exist with nearby residential and other noise sensitive land uses, and which recognise the principle that the primary responsibility for noise attenuation with respect to live music venues rests with the agent of change.
2. Four key changes to the pre-existing planning provisions relating to live music (in Clause 53.06 of all planning schemes):
- An additional Purpose “To encourage the retention of existing and the development of new live music entertainment venues.”
- Councils can identify areas with one or more live music venues in them – ‘live music precincts’, where live music will be encouraged and protected
- Inside identified precincts, any proposed new residential use needs to take account of any existing venue, and the possibility of new venues (this extends the Agent of Change principle to a whole-of-precinct approach)
- When anyone makes an application to establish, alter or demolish a live music venue, or to establish a new noise sensitive use near a venue or in an identified precinct, consideration must be given by the applicant and Council (or, in extraordinary circumstances the Minister) to the impact of the proposal on opportunities for live music.
3. Will the provisions save live music businesses from being evicted by landlords, or prevent landlords from selling the building?
- Not necessarily. It is extremely difficult for town planning laws to operate so as to require land to be used or developed in a certain way. While planning can prohibit, discourage or encourage certain outcomes, you can’t force someone continue to use their land as a live music venue (or anything else for that matter).
4. How will the provisions work in practice?
- They are likely to be of real value to live music venues who are trying to establish, or expand their existing operations. That is they have a positive effect rather than a negative or defensive value.
- The value lies in having a direct statement in the Scheme that opportunities for live music, and the economic and social values of live music are factors that must be taken into account by a decision maker.
- When this is combined with the changes to State policy, we have a planning scheme that provides considerably more support for live music venues, and expressly recognises that they have great value for the community.
- This in turn makes it significantly more likely that a planning decision maker will issue a permit for a new venue, or allow it to expand or allow its hours of operation or numbers to be increased.
5. How will this benefit live music?
- It is a very strong statement from government that live music is a planning priority of the state, giving it the same weight as factors such as affordable housing, heritage or industrial land supply. As with the reform in 2011 legislating the Liquor Act to insert an object recognising the contribution of live music, the benefits – both intended and unintended – will be wide-ranging and extensive, because it will make sure that live music is considered in all relevant planning strategy and land use decisions.
- It will allow Councils to identify areas with a concentration of venues and other night-time economy uses and allow them to set consistent, enforceable rules for venue owners, operators, developers and residents to protect amenity while encouraging economic activity.
- Effectively, the planning system will better deal with the opportunities and challenges of higher density living in activity precincts with live music venues in them.
- Implementing this approach will require a Council to identify a proposed precinct and take it through a planning scheme amendment process, so it will take a fairly committed Council to do it. But once in place, venues will have far greater planning support and protection.
- It will ensure that planning decisions-makers have to stop and think about the potential loss of a venue (or benefits of a new one) as a specific issue in any relevant development application. This is important. While it’s not a ‘ban’ on redevelopment of venues, it sends a message that the importance of a venue must be given weight. In practice, it’s likely to be a bit like heritage – the more significant the venue, the more weight it will be given in a planning decision.
6. How will it benefit artists, fans and music industry professionals?
More venues means more performance opportunities for artists, and live gigs for production crews and fans. Councils are likely to establish precincts were many artists live – and these precincts could include other services such as recording and rehearsal spaces, record stores, co-working spaces and radio stations.
7. Does it stop proposals to close or demolish existing venues?
No. This is beyond the power of planning controls to achieve. But it makes everyone stop and consider the impact of that loss and will encourage options to retain or replace venues in redevelopments eg. The Espy.
8. Do Councils have to identify precincts?
No. But it gives them power to do so, and the Minister is likely to issue guidance on how to do it. Music Victoria will work with supportive Councils to introduce precincts.
9. What are examples of other Live Music and Arts Precincts?
Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, Southport on the Gold Coast, Northbridge in Perth and Amsterdam all have live music precinct overlays, but this is believed to be the first statewide. The Melbourne Arts Precinct in Sturt Street is based on a similar model.
10. How do these changes relate to other regulations?
EPA is currently reviewing the regulations relating to noise from indoor and outdoor music venues. Music Victoria has strongly advocated for acknowledgement of active precincts that could have different noise objectives and measurement techniques. Now that the planning system provides for this, we can go back and lobby EPA to align the noise regulations.