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My name is Mark Benham,  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 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 next guest is a top planning barrister, rock fan, and new member of the House of Lords, Lord Charles Banner KC.

Charles Banner KC

Lord Charles Banner House music 4 interview

 

 

 

 

 

A Brummie by birth, Charlie was called to the Bar in 2004 and was appointed QC in 2019.  An experienced marathon runner, Charlie is a familiar face on Have We Got Planning News For You, which Charlie created in lockdown to raise money for the NHS.

Charlie has appeared in a number of recent high-profile planning appeal cases, including Hillside Parks and CG Fry.

It’s been quite a year already for Charlie.  In February, he was appointed to the House of Lords.  Last month, the Government announced that Charlie would be leading a review into the planning and delivery of national infrastructure projects.  And now the highlight of the year: an appearance on House Music.

Mark: What is your favourite venue for live music?

Charlie: That is a really difficult question as there are some fantastic venues around the world that I have been lucky enough to attend.  But right now, the last venue I attended, and in fact the next venue I am going to attend, was the incredible, game-changing Sphere in Las Vegas where I saw the second night of U2’s residency a few months ago. It was so good I am off to see it again!

The Sphere is absolutely amazing, a completely immersive event, kind of like a musical IMAX on speed.  The sound quality is incredible, and the visual experiences are out of this world without detracting from the music, really complementing the music.

What a pity that the promoters of the London Sphere pulled out due to planning uncertainties.

Mark: What is the most entertaining and memorable inquiry or hearing you have taken part in?

Charlie: I have been fortunate to appear in a range of inquiries and hearings that have been memorable for all sorts of reasons. One of the most formative cases I have done was the challenge to the White Paper endorsing the Government strategy for HS2 which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

That was the first occasion where I gave oral advocacy myself in the Supreme Court as opposed to being a junior. I was David Elvin’s junior for the HS2 Action Alliance and lead counsel for the Heathrow Hub proposal in front of a seven-panel Supreme Court. An exceptional panel -normally they sit as five.  

Other counsel included my then Head of Chambers Tim Mould (now Mr Justice Mould) and my former pupil supervisor Nathalie Leiven, now Mrs Justice Leiven. So it was all star counsel occasion (apart from me as junior!) and it was a fantastic opportunity to give submissions to Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath and others.

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

Charlie: That is a rather timely question because the first gig that I went to of probably now well over 300, maybe even twice that, was Bryan Adams in 1996 when I was 16 at the Birmingham NEC Arena (as it was then known), on the “18 Til I Die” tour. The “18 Til I Die” album was the follow up to his smash hit album “Waking Up the Neighbours”.

It was a fantastic gig! I remember it very well.  I went with my oldest friend from primary school, James, with whom I am still in touch.  Bryan Adams is now coming back this summer to do three nights at the Royal Albert Hall, around the corner from where I live, and on one of those three nights he is playing the “18 Til I Die” album from start to finish, which I’ve got tickets for – so it has kind of gone full circle.  A re-enactment of my first gig in 1996, 28 years ago!

I am delighted to say James is also coming with me. I am however not sure whether my mum will drop me off and pick me up from this next gig as she did in 1996…

My most recent gig was U2 at the Sphere and mentioned earlier.

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

Charlie: When I am doing written work, whether it is preparing for an inquiry, writing an opinion, writing a skeleton argument, when in my chambers, I listen to music all the time. I hate silence.  I often listen to rock music, and there are certain gigs that I regularly play in the background via YouTube. Sometimes if you listen to the same music that you’re familiar with it is less distracting than listening to something new. There are particular gigs such as the excellent Bon Jovi gig in Lisbon 2011, the final night of their Circle and Greatest Hits tour, which is their last great tour. So, I listen to that tour while I am doing my job. 

Many of the legal opinions that perhaps some of the people who read this have commissioned from me were written to hard rock!

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

Charlie: Well right now what I want more than ever is for Jon and Richie to get back together! The original duo at the heart of Bon Jovi. I was very sad when Richie left in 2013, I have seen Bon Jovi about 15 times in various venues around the world starting when I was 17 when I saw Jon Bon Jovi play Wembley Stadium as part of the Songs and Visions concert in 1997.  Last time I saw them was in Nashville in 2022, age 42. It has kind of been a constant through the ups and downs and lefts and rights of life.

But Bon Jovi aren’t Bon Jovi without Richie, are they? So, my dream headline act is to see Jon and Richie get back together. There are some rumours that’s going to happen soon. I will move heaven and earth to make sure I am at the first gig where Richie returns since his departure.

Who would be the support act? There is a great new band, well newish band, a young band called Tempt. These guys are amazing. They are from New York City and have played two gigs in the UK, one in Camden, which I was at, and one at Download Festival. They’re a great band, I thoroughly recommend their new eponymous album, kind of a modern contemporary take on 80s rock music, like a 2024 version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria with groove.

Where would it be? It’s Bon Jovi, it’s got to be at Wembley, doesn’t it?

Mark: What change would you like to see made to the appeal process that would really help inspectors?

Charlie: They should get paid more.  It seems to me that there are all sorts of reasons in the public interest why planning inspectors should get paid more. Did you know that tribunal judges who essentially do the same kind of “coal face” work, I think the starting salary is around £90,000 whereas the starting salary for planning inspectors is around £30-£40,000?

I also think that it would be good if inspectors could sit side-by-side, with two or more inspectors in difficult planning appeals. It happens all the time in EIPs hearings, it happens in DCOs, what about some of the big appeals?

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

Charlie: “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. I’m having such a good time, I don’t want to stop at all!

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

Charlie: Tell the truth, tell it concisely and tell it clearly. That is a good start. And as Kit Kat [Christopher Katkowski KC], my great mentor, used to say, answer the question yes or no but always qualify. There’s always a qualification, get that across, Yes But No But, like Vicky Pollard!

Mark: What is your favourite album?  Name the first that comes into your mind.

Charlie: That’s a really hard question. I am going to have to name two that spring to mind, and the first is “These Days” by Bon Jovi. It has the best of Bon Jovi from a formative time in my life in the 1990s. Jon Bon Jovi at his absolute singing best. What a great album!

The second one is “The Miracle” by Queen. The penultimate Queen album released while Freddie was still alive. Innuendo had arguably higher peaks, but I am not sure it was such a consistently great album whereas on “The Miracle” Freddie’s voice was still in full power. It is a little bit wispy by the time Innuendo was recorded.

I really enjoyed The Miracle’s re-release which came out last year with some of the live outtakes which was great because that was the first Queen album that they didn’t perform live during Freddie’s lifetime. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 and wasn’t able to perform by 1989 so to hear the recording of the lead tracks of that album done live in the studio in late 87/88 was fantastic.

I think the live version of “Breakthru” was absolutely incredible and smashed the socks off the album version.

Mark: What housing scheme or project that you have been involved in are you the proudest of?

Charlie: Wow, what a question that is. You know what musicians often say, including Jon Bon Jovi, “Your favourite album that you’ve done is your last album” And I think there is an element of truth in that. So, I am going take that philosophy and go with my last win which literally came out today*.

I am proud of it, it was a crazy old case.  It was about the hours of operation of a commercially successful brickworks that supplied the masonry for The Gherkin, The Chard, Heathrow T5 etc. But this appeal lasted nearly five years.  Why so?

Well, it was about a certificate of lawfulness, dismissed by the first inspector. It was challenged in the High Court on my advice, we succeeded, it went back and was dismissed again.  We challenged again in the High Court, and it succeeded, we went back again and finally after all these years we won, the clients got their certificate of lawfulness and can run their considerably lengthier hours of operation, which is quite a big deal commercially to them.  

I think there is a lesson in that. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again; perseverance and resilience are really important in all walks of life. They are increasingly important in planning where there are so many obstacles right now. Applying the adage a rock band is only as good as its last album, a boxer is only as good as their last fight, a barrister is only as good as their last win. And that’s my last.

Thank you very much indeed Mark, what a wonderful pleasure and privilege to be asked these questions.

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

*The interview was conducted in January 2024.

If you need further advice about any of your real estate requirements, please contact Mark via email at mark.benham@la-law.com