Final decision imminent on St Albans busking code of conduct

A busker outside Jack Wills in St Albans.

A busker outside Jack Wills in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

It is crunch time for the controversial busking code of conduct, about which a final decision will be made tomorrow.

Buskers on St Albans streets could be subject to a host of new rules, including restrictive volume control and banning merchandise sales.

The performers are also asked to introduce themselves to surrounding businesses and build a working relationship with them, and to not repeat songs or spend more than roughly two hours in any location.

Rules which were floated in a previous draft but have now been scrapped include banning amplifiers and loud instruments such as drums and trumpets.

Martin Slaughter, managing director of St Peter’s Street management consultancy business Hartley McMaster Ltd, found busking so intrusive in 2016 that he considered moving premises.

He said: “I read the draft code of conduct and it seems perfectly reasonable, but also toothless. It relies on buskers being reasonable and considerate as the options for action if they aren’t seem to be a warning letter - which I suspect would have little impact on someone who is happy to be unreasonable - or the threat of noise abatement action - which sounds very unlikely to happen in any real case.

“Most people are reasonable, but they probably aren’t the ones that have caused problems for local businesses in the past.

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“Given that there already is a code of conduct (which has been widely ignored) I can’t see what this adds. I appreciate that central government wants councils to reduce regulation, but it doesn’t sound outrageous to licence - and therefore control - amplified busking.”

A guitarist who pitches up in St Peter’s Street, Mark Percy, disagreed: “They have no idea how much harm [regulation] does to a real musician - either a keyboard player or a guitarist.

“The abuse of busking by musicians with backing tracks and subwoofers, creating a noise nuisance and an experience similar to torture for restaurant owners, stall holders, and passers by, is ruining it for ordinary buskers.”

He described it as “draconian”: “In a country that is over regulated, slowly, live street music is being killed.”

Cllr David Heritage, chairman of the licensing and regulatory committee which will scrutinise this proposal, declined to comment before the meeting, which is being held tomorrow.