The relationship between live music venues and surrounding residents has been a vexed planning question for many years.  What are the rights and responsibilities of each party? What is a reasonable level of noise?  At what times? Does it matter if the live music venue was there well before any residents moved into the surrounding area?

The Minister for Planning announced recently a range of measures in an attempt to ensure that live music in hotels and similar venues can co-exist with residential neighbours by providing a clearer understanding of the responsibilities of all parties.

The ‘Live Music Action Agenda’ includes changes to liquor licensing, planning controls, building regulations, funding assistance to live music venues and a review of noise regulations.

The reforms stem from the former Live Music Taskforce established more than 10 years ago and in more recent times a Live Music Roundtable (or should that be, err, Turntable?).

Of particular interest has been the emergence of the ‘agent of change principle’.  This principle determines the responsibility for noise management.  That is, where changed conditions are introduced into an environment such as through a new use or changed operating conditions, the reasonable expectations of the existing land users should be respected.  This applies to both live music venue operators and residents.

For example, for an existing resident, this means the continued protection of amenity in the event of a change to an existing venue’s operation or the development of a new venue.  In these circumstances, the burden of any noise attenuation or modified operating practices falls upon the live music venue operator as they are the agent of change.

Similarly, where an existing live music venue operator is currently compliant with relevant noise standards and its operation does not change, new residential or other noise sensitive development close to the venue would be required to include appropriate noise attenuation measures as the residential development is the agent of change.

It will be interesting to see if the ‘agent of change’ principle is applied to other circumstances within planning and the how it impacts on the requirements of, say, industry.  The EPA is currently reviewing SEPP- N1 which deals with the control of noise from commerce, industry and trade.  The application of the agent of change principle to other noise sources will be interesting to watch.

Similarly, it will be interesting to see how the ‘agent of change’ principle works in the longer term if it leads to the shifting of desired re-development of areas around the venue, especially where such desires are planning policy.

Enquiries to John Roney on 03 8698 9300 or jdr@colliepl.com.au