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My name is Mark Benham, by day I’m head of Real Estate at Lester Aldridge.  I advise regional and national housebuilders (and the occasional landowner) on land promotion, acquisition and development, including a fair amount of work advising providers of later living housing and housing with care.  Outside of work, my passion is music – whether it’s watching a new live act at a small local venue, enjoying music new and old on BBC 6 Music or compiling a playlist on Spotify to share with friends and colleagues.

There is a clear synergy between community assets, including live music venues, and the creation of new housing.  In July 2023, Joanna Averley, chief planner at The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, reminded the planning authorities that they “have an important role in identifying and protecting local grassroots music venues in their area from the effects of new development”, referring them to the requirements in the NPPF regarding the provision of suitable mitigation measures.  She also flagged how the Music Venue Trust (which describes itself as being like the National Trust of music venues) can offer support to planning authorities when consulting on applications.

Independent music venues are the lifeblood of the music industry here in the UK, breathing life into our towns and cities as part of the “night-time economy”.  Sadly, 2023 was the UK’s worst year for music venue closures, according to the Music Venue Trust, with 125 grassroots music venues closing over 12 months.  Without Government support, the sad reality is that the number of venues will continue to shrink.

Our second blog guest is Richard Schofield, Chief Planning Inspector at The Planning Inspectorate.

Richard Schofield photo for house music article. about music and property development


Richard Schofiled 1


Richard is a chartered town planner. He is the Planning Inspectorate’s most senior planning inspector and a Senior Civil Servant. He joined PINS as a “Band 1” inspector, from local government, in 2013, having worked also in the private and voluntary sectors.

Richard is a member of PINS’s Executive Team, with responsibility for Planning Inspectors’ professional standards – from recruitment processes, through to professional development and the quality of inspector output. He also works closely with central government, advising on policy and regulatory matters, and with key stakeholder bodies across the wider build and natural environmental sector.

After Richard name-checked Newcastle’s finest Maximo Park and Scotch rockers Biffy Clyro in a social media post about biodiversity net gain, we needed to find out more about his musical leanings (and, of course, life as a senior inspector).

Mark: What is your favourite venue for live music?

Richard: Rock City in Nottingham, as it’s my nearest big venue, where I have seen so many great bands over the years. But I’m very fond of the Roundhouse in Camden too. And I saw Seth Lakeman with an all-electric band at Southwell Minster (check it out – a poorly known gem of a cathedral) a couple of years ago. It was genuinely a stunning gig. The acoustics were incredible.

Mark: What is the most entertaining and memorable inquiry or hearing you have presided over?

Richard: Tricky. They’re all memorable for different reasons. The one that sticks in the mind the most was when, at their polite request, I allowed a member of the public to sing their evidence. Some of those present were non-plussed about it but you could have heard a pin drop in the room. I asked for the lyrics to be submitted as the singer’s statement. I remain happy that my decision made the event more accessible to that person, and of course, more memorable for me!

Mark: What was the first, and most recent, music gig/concert that you attended?

Richard: The first was The Wonder Stuff, supported by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, at Exeter University when I was about 14 or 15. I was blown away by the energy. And Miles Hunt’s snarky repartee. I’ll be seeing Ned’s again in May (I can’t believe they’re still going), when I watch them support New Model Army at the Roundhouse.

The most recent gig was James, with a full orchestra, just before Christmas. Not my usual choice but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. The sound, and the sheer joy of the (aging!) audience, was quite something.

Mark: Tell me something about your role that people are unlikely to know.

Richard: Tattoos are fine. The same goes for Planning Inspectors generally, in fact. And I don’t get a special hat. Or a briefcase. Or…anything symbolic in fact.

Mark: What band or artist is your dream headline act, who would be the support act and where would the gig be?

Richard: I really struggled with this question! So many options from which to choose, depending upon mood, era, genre, etc. In the end I went with two of my most consistent, and high energy, live loves. So, Biffy Clyro supported by Idlewild, probably somewhere like Glasgow Barrowlands. I feel Scottish at heart.

Mark: What change would you like to see appellants make to their appeal submissions (either form or content) that would really help inspectors?

Richard: Keep matters factual, concise and to the point, rather than subjective and expansive. Derogatory opinions about the other side’s arguments or position are never going to sway an inspector. And if I can add another, don’t include detailed site descriptions and epic lists of policies. They’re unnecessary and will likely be skipped over by the Inspector, who will be well up-to-speed on these things.

Mark: If you could sum up the life of a planning inspector by reference to a song, what song would it be?

Richard: Keep the Customer Satisfied by Simon and Garfunkel.

Mark: If you had one piece of advice to give to witnesses or advocates in an appeal, what would it be?

Richard: To witnesses, answer only the questions put to you, honestly and directly, without trying to put your case across. To advocates, listen to the inspector and avoid the temptation to argue with them. Their decisions are based on the facts of the case, not the passion of the advocate. If the Inspector is not interested in something, move on.

Many thanks to Richard for joining us. Our next episode will be landing next month – sign up to be notified when episodes are published here.

If you need further advice about any of your real estate requirements, please contact Mark via email at

Richard’s blogs at PINS:

Richard’s appearance on Have We Got Planning News For You: