KSL official response to Chester and Cheshire West Council’s Public Space Protection Order Consultation

KSL official response to Chester and Cheshire West Council’s Public Space Protection Order Consultation

We urgently need people to complete Chester and Cheshire West Council’s online PSPO consultation and to express their opposition to the police and private business group Chester CH1 BID proposals to criminalise street culture


The Campaign against the Criminalisation of Street Culture in Chester

ChesterEastgate

Nearly 7000 people have so far signed our petition against the proposal of Chester and Cheshire West Council to introduce a ‘Public Space Protection Order’ (PSPO) which, amongst other things would make it a criminal offence punishable by a £1000 fine to play music or sing songs in the street if you stand in the wrong place, for the wrong length of time and do not meet a quality assessment administered by the private business group Chester CH1. The proposed PSPO would also make it a criminal offence to ‘lie down or sleep in any public place‘, to feed birds and to beg using ‘verbal, non-verbal or written requests’. The proposals will have a hugely disproportionate effect upon vulnerable and dispossessed people in Chester, particularly the homeless and vulnerably housed as well as representing a direct assault on the spontaneity, informality and democratic access to public space for the arts and street culture that the Keep Streets Live Campaign exists to protect.

Online Consultation 

Chester and Cheshire West Council are currently carrying out an online consultation on the proposals which ends on October 15. It is vitally important that people participate in this consultation whether they are Chester residents, visitors, tourists, buskers or people who care about civic freedoms, public space and social justice. The more people who take part in this survey and express their constructive opposition to these damaging proposals, the more chance we have of ensuring that they do not go through. The consultation will take between 10/20 minutes to complete depending upon the amount of detail you go into it. Your response will make a big difference to this campaign, so please find the time to do it if you can!

Link to the online consultation:

http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/your_council/consultations_and_petitions/council_consultations/proposed_public_space_protecti.aspx

Link to the petition against the PSPO:

https://www.change.org/p/cheshire-west-and-chester-council-don-t-make-life-harder-for-the-homeless-don-t-criminalise-your-buskers

The PSPO proposal 

The consultation covers seven entirely separate proposals, each of which would create a new criminal offence in the defined geographical area of the PSPO.

1.) Measure 1 – Introduction of a controlled alcohol zone

2.) Measure 2 – Deterring the use of intoxicating substances

3.) Measure 3 – Deterring public urination/defecation.

4.) Measure 4 – Deterring rough sleeping

5.) Measure 5 – Deterring begging

6.) Measure 6 – Restricting the feeding of birds

7.) Measure 7 – Deterring inconsiderate buskers

As you will see, many separate issues have been lumped together under the ever-expanding category of ‘anti-social behaviour’. The busking proposals are on part of a wider ‘catch-all’ approach to the oversight of Chester’s public spaces. The Keep Streets Live Campaign has not taken a public position on whether Measures 1-3 should be included on the PSPO though we have expressed a view on those measures. We are strongly opposed to the inclusion of Measures 4-7 on the PSPO for reasons we make clear later.

In general the PSPO is an authoritarian and clumsy ‘catch-all’ piece of legislation which creates the potential for arbitrary criminal offences to be created with will have a disproportionate impact upon the most vulnerable members of society. Our considered view is that enforcement action should only ever be taken as a last resort against people whose actions were causing genuine harm to other people and who had refused reasonable requests to stop.

We strongly encourage people to take part in this online consultation and to answer the questions as they see fit. We are publishing our answers as a reference for people and to explain our reasons for opposing the PSPO clearly. Please feel free to use our answers as a framework for your own responses. A text summary follows each screen grab for ease of copy/pasting .


Keep Streets Live Campaign official response to Chester PSPO consultation 


Page 1

PSPO consultation

PSPO consultation

Text Summary

As mentioned above I am the Director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music. We work alongside local authorities to develop policies that support and sustain street culture and campaign against policies which criminalise cultural activities. In addition to this role I have been asked by members of Chester’s busking community to represent their interests throughout this consultation process.

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Screenshot 2015-08-28 13.03.16

Page 3

 

Page 4

Screenshot 2015-08-28 13.33.53

Text Summary

People Being Drunk/Rowdy

My answer would have been neither positively or negatively, a choice that was not made available. In every town or city in the UK there are groups of people who are boisterous on a night out. There is a clear line between high spirited behaviour and behaviour that causes alarm, harassment or distress to other people. Most of the time people who are merry and high-spirited don’t cause genuine antisocial behaviour and I wouldn’t want people to be singled out unfairly for behaviour that wasn’t causing any real harm.

People using legal highs/behaving erratically 

Once again, any behaviour that causes alarm and harassment or distress to others should be dealt with appropriately and proportionately whether it is influenced by legal highs, illegal drugs or alcohol. I believe the resources of the police and local authority should be directed towards individuals that cause genuine harm to other people and that persons whose behaviour is not causing harm should not be a priority for enforcement. ‘Behaving erratically’ is a vague and nebulous term and is legally ambiguous. People who are not causing harm should not face enforcement action.

People urinating/defecating in public 

The lack of public toilet facilities is a growing concern, particularly for vulnerable groups of people who are homeless or vulnerably housed and find it difficult to find places that allow them to use the toilet. There is a difference between a person on a night out who urinates in a public place and somebody who is homeless who lacks adequate places to use the loo. I would hope that any enforcement action would not be directed at vulnerable persons and also that the local authority would prioritise the adequate provision of toilet facilities in public places.

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Screenshot 2015-08-28 13.33.58

Text summary

Rough Sleeping 

I have had many conversations with homeless people in Chester and have been impressed by the courage and resilience of this highly vulnerable group of people. They sleep in the public spaces of Chester because they are well lit and they feel safer there. There is a community amongst rough sleepers which is not always replicated in precarious temporary accommodation.

I would like to see social provision made for homeless people that makes it less necessary for them to sleep on the streets but I have never been affected negatively by a rough sleeper and would never support coercive measures taken against them.

People Begging

The vast majority of people who beg are vulnerable and destitute and are begging in order to survive. Whilst I don’t give money to people who beg I always offer to buy them food and have positive interactions with beggars in Chester who have been very grateful when I bought them food and have spent time talking to them and finding more about the difficult situation they find themselves which is a visible reminder of the poverty and hardship faced by a growing number of people in UK society. They have always been grateful for someone interacting with them in a kind and non-judgemental way. I would not support coercive action taken against vulnerable people for begging in a way that doesn’t cause any harm to other people.

 

Buskers providing musical entertainment

My experience of musical buskers in Chester, both as a performer myself, and as a tourist has been overwhelmingly positive. Chester is a world-renowned destination for street artists and performers and has a hard won reputation as a city which attracts a wide variety of street performers who are clearly part of the attraction for the millions of people who visit Chester each year. Musical buskers of all abilities add to the vitality and sociability of the city’s cultural life. Chester’s busking scene is also a great way for students and young people to gain performing experience. They are an asset to the city.

Other street entertainers (e.g. sand sculptors, fire eaters, jugglers, human statues, balloon sellers)

Chester, like York, Covent Garden and Edinburgh is one of the UK’s premier destinations for ‘circle acts’, the kind of street performers that tend to attract larger crowds and perform circus skills like juggling and riding unicycles as well as telling jokes and providing free entertainment to people of all ages. They are a dynamic part of Chester’s cultural landscape and one of the many reasons that I visit Chester. Balloon artists and human statutes also provide entertainment to families and cause no disruption or nuisance of any kind.

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Measure 1

Measure 1

Text Summary

This proposal would give public officials and police officers a discretionary power that would be open to potential misuse if there were not clear guidelines attached and I would be concerned that enforcement action would be targeted at vulnerable groups of people and leave them open to criminalisation/marginalisation. Would a police officer challenge a family picnic where Prosecco was being drunk or would they target a group of vulnerably-housed people who were drinking canned lager instead? Any intervention or enforcement action should always be directed only at people whose actions are causing genuine harm to others, not arbitrarily.

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Measure 2

Measure 2

Text Summary

I am concerned about the impact of this measure against vulnerable people leading to criminalisation and marginalisation. The police and local authority have adequate powers to use against people whose behaviour causes alarm/harassment or distress towards other people. They can also use CPNs (Community Protection Notices) to target individuals whose behaviour is having a detrimental effect upon other people. I believe that a targeted approach, based on harm reduction and providing appropriate support to persons with addiction/mental health problems, is much better than blanket ban provisions of the sort proposed.

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Measure 3

Measure 3

Text Summary 

I would want clear guidance to accompany any proposal that ensures that enforcement is not directed against vulnerable groups of people. The fixed penalty is fixed at £100 rising to £1000 if it goes to court with a criminal record. If a person is urinating because they are homeless and have no place to use the loo I don’t believe they should be criminalised or given a fine that they will be unable to pay. This is a different matter entirely from someone who is on a night out and urinates in a public space.

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Measure 4

Measure 4

Text Summary

It shouldn’t be necessary to complete an online survey to explain why these proposals are not only wrong, but also highly unethical. People who sleep rough are amongst the most vulnerable members of our society and subject to violence, harassment alongside the many other difficulties they face on a daily basis. Many choose to sleep in well lit public places because they feel safer there and are amongst people they know. Criminalising rough sleeping in the defined area may well cause people to find other, less safe areas where they could be subject to assault and victimisation. Furthermore, there is no evidence that coercive measures are an effective way of getting people to engage with support services. Some people might ‘choose’ to sleep rough because they feel unsafe in their temporary accommodation or because they are trying to get away from people who are using drugs or alcohol. There is absolutely no justification for enacting a PSPO which incorporates rough sleeping. The local authority should concentrate on providing adequate support services for all people, but even if there were safe and available beds for all homeless people (there aren’t), it would still be unethical and, unlawful, to criminalise people for sleeping rough.

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Measure 5

Measure 5

 

Text Summary

These measures will clearly affect the most vulnerable in Chester and should not be included in the PSPO. People asking for food or money because of desperate poverty should not face criminalisation and punitive fines that they could not reasonably be expected to pay. The proposed measure is ‘catch-all’ in nature by incorporating ‘verbal, non-verbal or written requests’. This will affect people who cause no harm or interference to other people. Enforcement action should only ever be directed against persons who behave in a way that causes alarm, harassment and distress to other people. Adequate powers to already exist.

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Measure 6

Measure 6

Text Summary

Under these proposals Mary Poppins would become a criminal for feeding the birds with the children she is looking after. Would they also be in breach of the PSPO? Would a father who hands a piece of bread to his 9 year old son to feed the ducks become an accessory to the ‘crime’? Adequate signage in appropriate areas, explaining why it is harmful to feed birds in certain places, coupled with non-coercive engagement from public officials would clearly suffice. If certain individuals persist in causing an issue by feeding the birds, existing powers are adequate to deal with them. There is no justification for a blanket ban.

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Measure 7

Measure 7

Text Summary

The proposed PSPO would make it a criminal offence to sing or play musical instruments without permission, in the ‘wrong’ locations, and for the ‘wrong’ length of time. Under the proposals you could be committing a criminal offence, even if your actions were not causing any harm or annoyance to any person. People could face fines of up to £1000 and a criminal record just for singing on the street. This is arbitrary and constitutes a misuse of the law. It would damage spontaneity, deter high quality travelling performers from coming to Chester, deter students and young people from starting busking in the first place, damage relationships between police and the wider community and create an irrational obligation to enforce against people who are not causing any harm.

The option that asks the council to work on a new Code of Practise is a much better way of building good relationships of cooperation between local businesses, residents and the busking community. It would preserve the informality, spontaneity and democratic access to public space that is so intrinsic to busking whilst setting clear expectations for all those busking in Chester. Crucially, enforcement action under the code of practice approach would only be directed at those persons whose behaviour had caused actual harm to others. This would enable the local authority to target inconsiderate buskers whose actions not only cause problems for businesses and residents, but also other buskers, without creating a blanket ban which affects ALL buskers, regardless of harm caused. The council can use Community Protection Notices (CPNs) to target individuals whose behaviour is unreasonable, persistent and having a detrimental effect on the locality. This collaborative and targeted approach is much more appropriate for the oversight of a cultural activity such as busking, and, crucially, would have the consent and cooperation of the busking community and professional bodies such as Equity and the Musician’s Union.

Page 13 

Designated Pitches

Designated Pitches

Text Summary

Designated sites would make it a criminal offence to busk anywhere other than those sites and for that reason alone should not form part of the PSPO under any circumstances. The proposed sites leave out many spots that are currently popular for busking such as the central part of Northgate Street and don’t include many spaces suitable for circle acts such as the central part of Eastgate Street. Designated spots impose an undue rigidity upon the fluidity and informality of busking as well as having the unintended effect of concentrating complaints about busking outside specific premises often leading to those pitches being closed down and even less pitches becoming available. Instead of designating fixed pitches the code of practise should make clear that busking is allowed in public places provided that a) No obstruction is being caused b) the performer is mindful of surrounding premises and other users of the street and makes approbate adjustments to their act upon reasonable request. Enforcement action should be directed only at performers whose actions are causing a genuine nuisance and who subsequently refuse to comply with a reasonable request to adjust their performance.

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Final Comments

Final Comments

Text Summary

The PSPO proposal is a fundamentally misconceived attempt to deal with specific issues such as the widespread disruption caused to Chester on certain Race Days in a catch-all fashion. It wrongly conflates busking, rough sleeping and feeding birds with ‘antisocial behaviour’, a term which is expanding its meaning to incorporate ever greater spheres of human interaction. It targets the vulnerable and marginalised through its provisions on rough sleeping and begging. It targets the cultural and artistic community in its provisions on busking and creates new ‘criminal offences’ which send a damaging message to the UK and beyond about what Chester is like and what kind of city it is. The provisions  on bird-feeding are silly as well as draconian and betray an over-regulatory mindset which overlooks the crucial principles of policing by consent, equality before the law and proportionality. The council and the police have the use of robust existing legislation such as the 1986 Public Order Act to deal with genuinely antisocial behaviour. It is already a criminal offence to be drunk or disorderly or to cause alarm, harassment and distress to other people. Under the Police, Crime and Antisocial Behaviour Act 2014 the police and local authority have additional powers to use Community Protection Notices (CPNs) against any person whose behaviour is unreasonable, persistent and having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the community. Used as a last resort, the CPNs enable the police or local authority to either issue Fixed Penalty Notices or fines of up to £2500 against persons who breach them. A far better approach to dealing with antisocial behaviour in Chester would be firstly to separate activities like rough sleeping, begging, bird feeding, and busking from consideration altogether. it was wrong to include these categories in the first place. Secondly, for issues around drunkenness, legal highs, and alcohol the police and local authority should identify those persons whose persistent actions have caused alarm, harassment and distress to other people and targeted enforcement action against those individuals using existing powers. This targeted approach could be achieved by drawing up clear guidance for officers and public officials on how to engage with vulnerable people what the real priorities for enforcement really were. My feeling is that the PSPO approach is about administrative convenience above all else. If an activity is named on a PSPO it becomes an offence by default, even if it is not causing harm or inconvenience to any person. Fixed penalty notices of £100 could be issued to people for sleeping on benches, feeding birds, or singing songs. The fine could rise to £1000 and a criminal record if it goes to court. This punitive and disproportionate response will do little to improve genuine community safety and will come at the expense of freedom of expression and association, freedoms that are intrinsic to life in an open and democratic country. Unlike Fixed Penalty Notices under a PSPO, prosecutions under existing legislation or through the use of Community Protection Notices require the police and the local authority to gather evidence that the person being targeted has caused a genuine issue. This is a protection against arbitrary outcomes and the potential abuse of power. The police and the local authority have an essential role in upholding pubic safety. It is vital that their scare resources are directed towards activities that are genuinely harmful and impacting upon the community, rather than in a scattergun approach against rough sleepers, buskers and bird feeders. Nonetheless the PSPO consultation provides the local authority with a value opportunity to develop a code of practise for busking that has the consent and full participation of the busking community, to examine the provision of services to homeless people, and to develop clear guidance for engagement with vulnerable groups on the part of the local authority. it provides the city of Chester, and the surrounding areas with a valuable opportunity to reflect upon what kind of city it wishes to be; the kind of city where people are made to feel welcome and included, whether they are a wealthy tourist or an impoverished and vulnerably housed resident, or whether it wishes to be a city where people face a criminal record for singing songs in the street and where, at the time of national housing crisis and widespread cuts to hostels and benefits, it becomes a criminal offence to sleep rough. It is greatly to be hoped that the opportunity to reflect upon these issues created by the consultation results in the wholehearted rejection of any measures that would criminalise the vulnerable and damage the vibrant street culture that is such an important part of making Chester the wonderful city that it is.


End of Formal Response to Consultation


Summary 

Thank you for taking the time to participate in Chester and Cheshire West’s PSPO consultation and to read the official Keep Streets Live Campaign response to it. The more people that can express their opposition to these proposals, the more chance we have of successfully challenging them. Please share this consultation response and our petition with anyone you think might share our concerns about the attack on civic freedoms in Chester.

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Please sign the petition to stop the criminalisation of the homeless and buskers in Chester

Cheshire West and Chester Council have decided that it would be a good idea to deal with homelessness not by providing shelter for the vulnerable but by making it a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 to ‘lie down or sleep in any public place’.

In a wide-ranging proposal to tackle ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the city using controversial new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) powers they are also planning to criminalise buskers who haven’t passed a ‘quality assessment’ first though the private business group CH1 BID company. This proposal turns council officials into civic Simon Cowells with a nasty twist, the power to give musicians a criminal record for singing songs on the streets. It is attack on the spontaneity and informality which is part of what makes busking such an integral part of Chester’s cultural heritage. Ludicrously, the proposed PSPO would also make it a criminal offence to ‘feed any bird’ in the defined area.

When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in that challenge:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty. Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay.

One of the architects of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposals, Chief Inspector Jez Taylor, a partnership officer with Cheshire Police, has justified them in the following terms:

“Chester is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the United Kingdom. Its Roman heritage and many assets including the cathedral, the walls, the racecourse, the zoo and the river…a PSPO will…improve the image of the city centre

But this approach to policy making privileges the appearance of Chetser and surrounding areas over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers, the vulnerable and even buskers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings.

 The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music. We have successfully overturned policies which criminalised buskers in Liverpool and York where we now work with the councils to design best practise policies for street culture alongside groups like the Musician’s Union.

We are calling on Cheshire West and Chester Council to abandon their plan to criminalise rough sleeping, begging and busking. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Chester too. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to stop Cheshire West and Chester Council from making homelessness harder than it already is.

Open Letter to Oxford’s ruling Labour Group against their coercive busking policy

Open Letter to Oxford’s ruling Labour Group against their coercive busking policy
Keep Streets Live is Campaigning Against Oxford Council’s plans to make ‘noncompliant busking’ a criminal offence 
Join our all day protest against Oxford’s coercive Public Space Protection Order tomorrow from 12pm outside Pret a Manger on Cornmarket:
https://www.facebook.com/events/749538838499756/752236524896654/
Sign our petition calling on Oxford to abandon its plans to criminalise buskers:
https://www.change.org/p/oxford-city-council-stop-attacking-our-freedoms-support-a-vibrant-street-culture-in-oxford
The following is an open letter to Oxford’s political leaders responding to their justification of the coercive busking policy:
 
Dear Oxford Councillors,
I have sent this message to Councillor Sinclair but feel its contents are very important and relevant to the political and cultural life of Oxford as a whole and deserve to be read by all the elected representatives at the Council
I had a useful and productive meeting with several Oxford Council Officers in April facilitated by Councillor David Thomas of the Green group at which I was able to clearly explain our position as a campaign group and why Oxford’s proposed course of action to target a Public Space Protection Order against ‘noncompliant’ buskers is so problematic. I had hoped that this meeting would help Oxford understand why the course of action they had proposed was disproportionate and contentious and that it would be quietly dropped as the plans to criminalise rough sleeping and feeding pigeons have already been put aside. We have also demonstrated a clear and workable alternative approach, a guide to busking in York drawn up by buskers, businesses and the local authority working together and targeting enforcement action against the small minority of buskers who cause genuine issues. I am attaching two PDFs of York’s policy, one aimed specially at businesses who might have issues with buskers, and one aimed more generally at buskers and others who use public space. I hope you all get the chance to scrutinise these documents carefully.
May I firstly say that I am willing to accept that the PSPO proposal although clearly misguided, is at least well-intentioned. Oxford is a wonderful city in which to busk and some form of oversight is clearly necessary. It is also clear that enforcement powers are needed as a last resort for nuisance caused by busking.
However, the proposals to make ‘noncompliant’ busking a criminal offence by implementing a PSPO go way beyond what is necessary and proportionate for the oversight of busking and , ironically, represent a real threat to the cultural and civic life of Oxford’s public spaces.
That is why, tomorrow, I will be helping to lead a day long multi-location protest busk against Oxford’s PSPO proposals to invite the Labour group and the responsible officers to rethink these damaging proposals. We will be on Cornmarket from 12pm onwards and if any elected members wish to come and speak to us we would be very happy to explain our position. Here is the Facebook event to the protest:
https://www.facebook.com/events/749538838499756/752236524896654/
Quite simply, the proposed PSPO has the effect of turning an already restrictive busking code of conduct into criminal law and will thereby create a catalogue of entirely arbitrary new ‘criminal’ offences.
Oxford’s claims that existing powers are inadequate are misleading and inaccurate.
Oxford City Council already has legal powers to take action against buskers who are causing a noise nuisance and obstruction. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is a criminal offence to cause noise nuisance and the local authority can issue noise abatement notices against buskers and even confiscate musical instruments.
Likewise, under the Highways Act 1980 it is an offence to cause an obstruction on the highway, and any busker who does so can face enforcement action and punitive fines
Oxford’s existing code of conduct for busking is already highly restrictive and the proposal to introduce PSPO powers to underpin it will lead to arbitrary outcomes.
Oxford only ‘allow’ busking in eight official locations. Under the PSPO it will be a criminal offence to busk anywhere else, even if no obstruction is being caused. This creates an arbitrary criminal offence. In reality there are many more than eight places in the city where busking could be carried out without causing an issue.
Oxford only allow people to busk for one hour in one place and say no return is allowed to that spot within two hours. This treats a grassroots cultural activity which brings life and colour to the city centre as if it were car parking. A busker with a large repertoire of songs, played at a responsible and reasonable level can busk for longer than one hour without causing any issues whatsoever. Under Oxford’s PSPO proposal it will be a criminal offence to busk for 65 minutes, even if no nuisance has been caused, no complaints have been received and no one is waiting for a busking pitch. Once again this is in an entirely arbitrary outcome which undermines respect for the rule of law and is completely disproportionate.
‘A Guide to Busking in York’ is a collaborative document agreed between the busking community, Musician’s Union, Keep Streets Live Campaign, local authority and local businesses in that historic city over a period of 6 months of discussions. It is a clear alternative approach to the course of action Oxford propose. It has also been presented to Oxford’s ruling Labour group and senior officers within the council. It is designed to build good relationships between people who use the streets and provides a dispute resolution mechanism for people who have complaints about buskers. Importantly, enforcement action will only be taken as a last resort against buskers who are causing a specific issue such as noise nuisance or obstruction and who have refused reasonable requests to amend their performances. Unlike Oxford’s PSPO proposal a busker would not face a criminal record just because they had played in the wrong spot or for longer than one hour. There would have to be a justified reason for taking enforcement action. This has the advantage of being both fair and sensible in light of the costs of taking enforcement action and the relatively scarce resources available to the council. You can see York’s busking guidance at this link: http://keepstreetslive.com/articles/2015/05/1301
including a special four page document aimed at city centre businesses. It is a clear alternative to the proposals Oxford Council have put forward.
Oxford make the spurious claim that they need to introduce a PSPO because they have no existing powers of enforcement. I have already shown that this is demonstrably untrue and that the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Highways Act 1980 give scope for enforcement against noise nuisance and obstruction. Additionally, since October 2014 under the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 (The same act that contains PSPOs) the council now have the power to issue Community Protection Notices (CPNs) against any individual whose behaviour is a) unreasonable and b) having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the vicinity. The breach of a CPN is a criminal offence and can lead to the seizure of musical instruments and punitive fines. CPNs could be issued to any busker whose conduct was deemed to be unreasonable and having an adverse affect on the quality of life of those within the vicinity. It is impossible to imagine a situation arising from busking where a CPN or the other pieces of legislation already mentioned would be inadequate. The advantage of a CPN over the PSPO is firstly that is targeted against individuals rather than buskers as a group, and secondly that it is more difficult to issue arbitrarily. A busker could not get given a CPN just for busking in the wrong spot for the wrong length of time unless they were actually causing a significant issue. Under the PSPO legislation a busker could be fined and criminalised even if they were causing no issue to any person. This is an arbitrary outcome that undermines respect for the rule of law and will create an unnecessary relationship of antagonism between Oxford’s civic officers and the busking community. It will also out many buskers and musicians off from travelling to Oxford in the first place and create a more routinised, sanitised and duller public realm which cannot be good for the city.
In short, there are many good alternatives to the PSPO approach, and many good reasons why the PSPO should not be adopted. The only remaining reason why Oxford might consider adopting the PSPO are because a) It creates a summary power to use against buskers which appears to be administratively convenient to do b) There is no requirement to produce evidence that a busker has caused an issue, buskers can be given a £100 fine just for playing in the wrong spot or for longer than 60 minutes which is less difficult than proving that a busker has been unreasonable and is causing a genuine issue.
The PSPO is a disproportionate and unjustified response to the issue of busking. We call upon Oxford City Council to drop these contentious proposals and to open a genuine dialogue with the busking community, local businesses, Musician’s Union and the Keep Streets Live Campaign and to introduce guidance promotes harmony and good will and does not create arbitrary criminal offences to the great detriment of the civic and cultural life of the city of Oxford.
Kind regards,
Jonny Walker
Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign
http://keepstreetslive.com
http://jonnywalker.co.uk
http://facebook.com/jonnysongs

This was Oxford City Council's official response to our petition:

Oxford City Council encourages busking in the city centre. It adds a great deal to the vibrant and exciting city centre experience that we all know and love.

For the last decade, the City Council has had a Code of Practice that buskers are asked to agree to observe when they obtain a busking permit from the Council. to observe when they obtain a busking permit from the Council.

The Code includes:

– Not busking for more than 60 minutes in one place
– Not obstructing the highway
– Using amplification responsibly and maintaining a reasonable volume

The aim of the Code has always been to create a level playing field for all buskers and to stop any nuisance to everyone else who uses the city centre

– traders, local residents and visitors.
We currently have no legal power to enforce this Code of Practice and have received complaints from traders, in particular, about buskers playing loudly and for long periods of time outside their shops, which is not fair to them.

The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has been proposed in order to provide a legal power to take action against busking which leads to complaints from the public. In all cases, buskers will be asked to conform to the Code before any enforcement measures are used.

The PSPO will allow the Police or designated Council officers to issue a £100 fine or, in the most extreme of cases, to take the person to court, which could result in a maximum fine of £1,000.

But the Order will also remove the current requirement to obtain a permit before busking. After the PSPO has been introduced, people wishing to busk will be able to do so without contacting us in any way. All they will need to do is adhere to the existing Code of Practice.

The measures proposed will therefore have no impact on the vast majority of buskers and will in fact make it easier for musicians to busk in Oxford city centre. We think the measures will help to improve the liveliness of the city centre.


Posted on May 20, 2015