Cllr Heather Acton, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing, explains why licensing busking in central London is essential.
Reports of a busker ban in Westminster are striking the wrong note. Performances from musicians, magicians, comedians, artists and dancers can add vibrancy and colour to our streets in the West End. Most people might like to pause to hear a talented performer, but I can't turn a deaf ear to the 1,800 complaints [pdf] the council receives annually about noise and obstructions on our pavements caused by performers.
Discordant blaring speakers lose their charm if you're in an office or at home, and have to listen to the often repetitive output hour after hour. One of my fellow councillors was recently contacted by a woman running a business on Oxford Street. A busker with an amplifier outside their building was making it difficult for anyone in the office to work or even think. Requests to turn down the volume or move somewhere else were refused. Unfortunately, this kind of thing isn't an isolated complaint. Of course we're a busy capital city, but there's a sensible balance to be struck between the traditional art of busking and the right of people not to be plagued by noise which they haven't chosen.
I've worked hard with organisations representing street entertainers to seek a self-regulating approach, but the complaints continue. Westminster Council's new proposals have been developed after more than a year of talking to residents, businesses and buskers. They concentrate on Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Chinatown and Piccadilly areas on the grounds that around 60% of complaints about street entertainment come from these locations.
The goal is to achieve a situation where people can enjoy street entertainment in central London while we protect residents and businesses from excessive noise and overcrowding. I believe these plans will help to find that sensible middle path.
Anyone interested to find our more or take part in our consultation, which closes later this month, can do so by visiting Westminster Council's website.
Read an opposing view: "Busking In London Is Becoming A Poor Person's X Factor"