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Camden busking laws to be enforced after judge rejects High Court challenge

Jonny Walker (centre) leads a protest outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock. Jonny Walker (centre) leads a protest outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
11:59 AM

Controversial laws to licence busking in Camden will be enforced by the council after a legal challenge to halt the new rules was rejected by a High Court judge.

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Following a two-day judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice last month, judge Mrs Justice Patterson today ruled that Camden Council had adopted a lawful policy that was “both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking”.

In October, comedian Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg joined campaigners in Camden High Street to protest against the new rules.

The change will mean anyone caught busking without a licence could be fined up to £1,000 and have their instruments confiscated. The use of amplifiers and wind instruments will be banned.

It follows an increase in complaints from residents about noise generated by street entertainers.

The licensing system was due to be introduced last month but was put on ice by the council until the conclusion of the High Court proceedings. Buskers will now be able to apply for a licence from March 24.

The ruling is a defeat for busking campaign group Keep Streets Live! which was ordered to pay £7,500 in legal costs.

David Wolfe QC, representing the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on street entertainment across London.

But the judge refused permission and campaigners will now have to consider asking the Court of Appeal to hear the case.

Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “By introducing this policy, we’re able to strike a balance between the rights of performers to use public spaces and the rights of our residents to a quality of life free from noise nuisance, often late at night.

“We have purposely set the costs of licences at a level that is affordable, clearly showing we do not wish to discourage music or street performances, but to find a way that works for all.”

Jonny Walker, founding director of Keep Streets Live!, said: “We are disappointed with Mrs Justice Patterson’s decision and will now seek to have this case heard by the Court of Appeal.”

A “standard” busking licence costs £19 and permits performances in public areas between the hours of 10am and 9pm. Licences are valid for a 12-month period in most circumstances.

Buskers can apply for a licence at www.camden.gov.uk/licensing or by calling 020 7974 4444.

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