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New support for Victoria’s live music industry_____

Admentment VC183 Live Music - Melbourne Music Week

New support for Victoria’s live music industry

With Melbourne’s world-renowned music scene reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, Victoria’s Planning Minister, The Hon. Richard Wynne MP recently approved Amendment VC183 which introduces Clause 13.07-3S (Live Music) into the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and makes changes to Clause 53.06 (Live Music Entertainment Venues).

The amendment forms part of a broader package of support for the State's live music industry with the Victorian Government having recently announced a $13M package of grants for venues, industry organisations, artists, and other industry workers. For those interested the full amendment documentation can be reviewed here - Amendment VC183

Purpose & Function

VC183 aims to provide a more rigorous basis in planning policy and stronger controls to support existing and future live music entertainment venues within Victoria.

The new Clause 13.07-3S (Live Music) seeks to “encourage, create and protect opportunities for the enjoyment of live music” along with the following strategies:
  • Identify areas where live music venues are encouraged or where there are high concentrations of licensed premises or clusters of live music venues.
  • Implement measures to ensure live music venues can co-exist with nearby residential and other noise sensitive land uses.
The Clause also requires decision-makers to consider the “social, economic and cultural benefits” of live music venues.

The revised Clause 53.06 (renamed from Live Music Entertainment Noise to Live Music and Entertainment Venues) introduces the following new purpose:
  • To encourage the retention of existing and the development of new live music entertainment venues.
The clause also introduces new application requirements and decision guidelines including consideration of the “social and economic significance of an existing live music entertainment venue and the impact of a proposal on the functioning of live music venues.

Whilst the clause applies to any application for buildings and works for a live music entertainment venue or a noise sensitive residential use that is within 50 metres of a live music entertainment venue, planning authorities are also able to identify specific areas where the clause will apply to applications for “noise sensitive residential use” (effectively enabling extensions of the threshold distance beyond 50 metres).

In these areas, the onus will be on the new residences to incorporate noise mitigation measures to minimise the potential conflict that can arise when residences establish in proximity to venues.
Discussion: A symbolic step with noise still to be made

It is fair to say that the development pressures facing live music venues in Victoria are not exactly news, however, as documented in the VC183 Explanatory Report (PDF), COVID-19 related restrictions have unfortunately “increased the prospect of live music venue tenants being evicted and the potential for venues to permanently change to alternate land uses”.

But how much does VC183 really push the needle?

While it is certainly a positive step for state policy to provide explicit strategic support for live music venues, the social and economic significance of live music venues is already recognised in many local planning policies. This is particularly so in inner-metropolitan municipalities that have a greater density of existing venues and are the most likely locations for new venues.

More importantly, the amendment does not provide additional tools for decision-makers in weighing the importance or value of a live music venue against an alternative land use that may have equal or greater strategic support. Given the wealth of policy support for increasing the supply of housing in activity centres, for example, these provisions alone are unlikely to be sufficient to protect live music venues.

Whilst VC183 provides the opportunity to schedule live music precincts under Clause 53.06, there is no guarantee that our already busy planning authorities will act to do so. The opportunity to protect live music entertainment venues existed prior to VC183 through the schedule to Clause 53.06 however a relatively low number of venues have been nominated to date. Notwithstanding, the framework provided by VC183 provides a stronger strategic basis for future planning scheme amendments.

Existing and new live music venues are still required to abide by SEPP N-2 noise regulations which are currently subject to review. Such a review is timely particularly given Music Victoria’s view that the regulations fail to properly distinguish between cultural sound (such as live or recorded music) and other noise sources (such as traffic or industrial land uses).

New venues are also still faced with planning permit requirements to sell and consume liquor under Clause 52.27 which can be a time consuming and expensive process presenting a barrier to smaller or less commercially oriented operators. The decision guidelines at Clause 52.27 primarily require consideration of amenity impacts associated with a licensed premises without explicit regard to the social, cultural or economic benefits that a licensed live music venue might provide.

Overall, VC183 provides important strategic and symbolic support for live music in Victoria, but expecting it to make a significant impact on the post-COVID- 19 recovery of the music industry may be wishful thinking.

To further support new and existing live music venues in the ‘great recovery’, further consideration should be given to providing notice and review exemptions for low-risk licensed venues in activity centres, varying acoustic requirements for live music and entertainment venues in activity centres, and greater use of streamlined temporary permits to allow ‘trial-periods’ for new and emerging venues and activation of under-utilised spaces.

How Can Tract Assist?

Tract has been proudly providing strategic and statutory advice to a range of clients in the music and creative and cultural industries, including with respect to licensed premises and the implications of Clause 53.06.

If you would like any more information on how amendment VC183 may affect you or your future projects, please contact Paul Lewis or your existing Tract contact.
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