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London market buskers fined as licensing row remains ‘unresolved’

Buskers are staying away from a market in east London for fear of being fined by local council enforcement officers, who have warned them not to play there in future.

An initial noise complaint sparked the dispute in January and forced Tower Hamlets Council to meet with the Columbia Road Flower Market buskers, local residents and businesses to try to resolve the situation.

Musician Adam Beattie, a member of one of ten groups affected, said the council agreed at this meeting that its officers would use a ‘light touch’ approach to them, while it developed a licensing system.

However, Beattie claimed the situation still remains unresolved after he and other buskers were fined £150 for advertising CDs of their music at the market.

He said they told officers they would remove the sign and play elsewhere but were warned they would receive another fine for highway obstruction if they were to do this.

Beattie, who has played at the market every weekend for nearly four years, has now not busked there since he was issued the fine around a month ago.

He said: “This affects our business really badly. This time of year, it is really important to be down in Columbia Road market because we get so many bookings for weddings and other events for the summer, and those kinds of things are organised now.”

On average, four groups play at the market at any one time, and Beattie said there had been support from local businesses in favour of them staying.

He added: “Ideally, I’d like the council to see that, because there is so much support that it makes sense not to stop us. But we would be happy to agree to a licensing system if it saves the buskers.”

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Council said: “Our enforcement staff have recently responded to several complaints about the noise made by buskers in Columbia Road market.

“While we recognise the value of street entertainment, and appreciate that it is enjoyed by many people, such activity must be managed with consideration for others.”

She confirmed that the council would be consulting with the public about developing a formal policy on street entertainment.

In the meantime, the enforcement approach will be “proportionate”, she added.