A range of proposals to better manage buskers and street entertainers in selected areas of the West End have been unveiled by Westminster City Council to ensure everyone can enjoy street performances in central London.
Performances from musicians, magicians, comedians, artists and dancers are a fixture of West End streets, but every year Westminster receives around 1,800 complaints relating to noise and obstructions caused by street entertainers. Around 60% of all complaints related to street entertainment in Westminster come from the Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Chinatown and Piccadilly areas.
Following approval by its Licensing Committee today (Friday 10 January 2020), the council is proposing to implement area-based approaches to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy street entertainment in the West End. Drawn up after careful consideration of the evidence and engagement with buskers and street entertainers, as well as residents and businesses, the proposals will be subject to a six-week public consultation beginning on Tuesday 14th January 2020. The measures proposed are:
· Oxford Street: Introduce a licensing scheme with dedicated pitches and specific rules for these pitches which will be monitored and enforced by the council.
· Leicester Square, Chinatown & Piccadilly: A licensing scheme as above, but the council will look to work closely with the Street Performers Association (SPA) to monitor and implement.
· Trafalgar Square: Adopt a Memorandum of Understanding with the SPA that includes area-specific rules but allows performers to manage this themselves without licensing.
· Covent Garden: Support the existing SPA self-managed scheme by providing dedicated support to monitor and take enforcement action if needed.
Cllr Ian Adams, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing said:
“Every day buskers bring life and vibrancy to West End streets, but we also deal with around 1,800 complaints a year from residents and businesses over excessive noise and overcrowding caused by street entertainers. We know that many street entertainers act in a responsible way, but also that there’s a minority that can have a negative impact.
“We want to strike the right balance so everyone can enjoy street entertainment, and developed our approach after a year’s engagement with key groups including residents, businesses and the busking community itself. We will now launch a six-week consultation on these plans and want as many people as possible to give us their views on our proposals.”
As well as the introduction of a light-touch licencing scheme in selected areas, the council will promote membership of the Westminster Busking and Street Entertainment Forum, and also encourage performers to adhere to a Code of Conduct that aims to ensure their acts are safe and they are considerate of both the local community and other performers.