London

Camden Town buskers now need licences

Billy Bragg singing
Image caption Singer Billy Bragg protested against the new busking rules ahead of the decision

Buskers in a London borough famed for its live music will need licences, following a decision by councillors.

The Labour authority said restrictions had been brought in after increased noise complaints mainly from residents in Camden Town, north London.

The legislation, which allows fines of up to £1,000 and confiscation of equipment, was "light touch", said a spokesman for the council.

Celebrity opponents of the measure called it "cowardly" and "Draconian".

Resident complaints

The council voted by 26 to 17 on Monday evening to adopt a section of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 enabling the council to licence busking.

It means from February any person busking in Camden will need to be licensed.

Camden said it had had 100 complaints from residents in the last year over the use of kit such as amplifiers and drums on the street.

In the past 10 years there have typically been about 12 complaints a year, the council said.

A standard annual licence will cost £19 and permit performances between 10:00 and 21:00.

Last month, comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey busked with musician Billy Bragg, to draw attention to the proposal.

Mr Bailey said he was disappointed with the decision and that it was "cowardly political grandstanding".

He said buskers had offered to set up a forum or a guide to limit disturbance to residents, though he challenged the number of complaints the council said it had received.

He said: "Busking has a fine historical tradition."

He added that he believed there would be legal challenges to the council's decision.

Abdul Hai of Camden Council said: "Campaigners against this new policy have been making a mountain out of a molehill suggesting that we are trying to outlaw busking.

"I can categorically say this is not what this policy seeks to achieve.

"This light touch regulation will restrict the use of amplified equipment."

Liverpool City Council tried to enforce a similar policy, but reviewed it in 2012 after campaigners applied for a High Court injunction barring its enforcement.

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