PSPO Enquiry (Coventry)

This is an actual letter to Coventry City Council and provides an excellent template for anyone wanting to contact their local Council about the misuse of PSPO’s to prevent/curtail busking.

Published with permission of David Gray

Dear Coventry City Council,

I am writing to you regarding the City Centre PSPO that you have in place in Coventry. If I have not sent this to the correct department, then please forward this on to the relevant personnel.

CC’ed into this message are Keep Streets Live and the Midlands branch of the Musicians Union.

I am a busker, and though I haven’t been to Coventry in some time, I have worked in Coventry on many occasions in the past. I was concerned to have my attention drawn recently to the anti-busking aspects of your current PSPO and would like to request a meeting to discuss it, acting as a representative of Keep Streets Live.

I am sure you are aware of Home Office guidelines that state: ‘Before making a Public Spaces Protection Order councils must consult the police and community representatives to ensure specific groups have the opportunity to comment, including… those involved in activities such as busking’. It is therefore puzzling that, to my knowledge, you did not make any efforts to contact Keep Streets Live, the Musicians’ Union or Equity – never mind individual buskers whom are bound to be affected. If you can provide clarity on the efforts that you made to consult buskers before implementing stringent restrictions on our activities I would be most grateful – if these efforts were not made then it seems that the PSPO was enacted in error and must be rescinded.

There are a number of other issues that concern me. I would be surprised if you are able to prove that busking in Coventry is ‘genuinely having a detrimental effect on others’ quality of life, in terms of the nuisance or harm that is being caused to others, rather than being a behaviour that others may just find annoying’, as stipulated in Home Office guidance. A complaint against a busker by one or two vociferous local business owners, for example, would not satisfy this criteria. Again, it would help if you can provide evidence in your favour on this point.

I note from looking through the Investigations Reports that busking has been cited 14 times since the introduction of the PSPO (as well as, somewhat curiously, several times before it – I wonder what grounds this was based on?). What was the outcome of these incidents? Were fines issued?

We would be happy to work with you on a set of voluntary guidelines that could replace the current PSPO – this has worked well in Birmingham and Worcester and was the result of discussion and compromise between councillors and buskers. There are already a number of legal instruments that a council can use against buskers in genuine noise nuisance cases, such as the Environmental Health Protection Act 1990 and the Control of Pollution Act 1974 – it would seem to me that these are sufficient without the need for new legislation.

I believe a meeting in person would be the best way to resolve these issues. I look forward to hearing your suggestions on when this might be able to take place.