How Nightclub Agent of Change Issues are Dealt with in Zoning Systems (and many other issues too)

A rather silly article today about nightclubs agent of change and the planning white paper.

DJ Mag

A new white paper published by the UK Government plans to completely reorganise England’s system for planning applications, leaving the country’s clubs under serious threat of encroachment from developers, with little room for objection from local communities or authorities.

Motion in Bristol and The White Hart in London are two venues that illustrate the risks this transfer could pose. They exist at opposite ends of the venue spectrum; the former a renowned large club, the latter a small pub which hosts live music and DJ sets for locals. Both have fought battles against developer encroachment: Motion has survived, whilst the White Hart will soon lose its ability to host any music whatsoever.

The main reason for these contrasting outcomes was a differing application of ‘agent of change’. 

Of course the agent of change principle was introduced from continental Europe – where err they have a zoning system. This is terrible journalism – pure sensationalism. Zoning is applied in almost every other country in the world and those that have agent of change as a legal principle find it is entirely compatible. The fault is not just lazy journalism but the total and utter failure of the government to understand how zoning works and explain how it might work in the white paper – underpinned by them havng no zoning experts advising them.

It works in such systems using overlay zones

Overlay zones typically provide a higher level of regulation (more restrictive) than the existing zoning classification, but they can also permit exceptions or be less restrictive.  In cases where conflicting standards are given by an overlay district and the underlying zoning category, those of the overlay district typically control.

Overlay districts are used to accomplish a variety of goals.  They are usually prompted by recommendations or policies in a community’s master plan or a special study.  Examples of goals related to overlay regulations include water quality protection, traffic safety / access management, appearance standards…etc.

A good example is flood risk. If flood risk is so high, such as functional flood plane, to prohibit development you zone it for protection. But f less that is development could be acceptable if designed in a certain way you apply standards through a flood evaluation overlay zone.

Same with issues such as hazards, setting of heritage assets and many other issues. It if about regulations being smart, applying additional regulatory control only where needed and granting ‘as of right’ development consents where not. They always override the base zone regulation. How can anyone disagree with that?

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