Edinburgh to seek extra powers to clamp down on buskers using amplifiers
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Lib Dem councillor Neil Ross told a meeting of the full council that buskers and street entertainers livened up the city, but residents and businesses were suffering because some ignored the official advice to be considerate about volume.
He said uncontrolled amplified sound was “unacceptable, unreasonable and unnecessary”.
"The council is responsible for our public spaces and should be able to exercise control over them. Other councils elsewhere do, why not here?” he said.
Councillor Ross said public entertainment licences allowed the council to control sound in premises and at open-air events, but powers were not sufficient over occasional busking.
And he argued the council should ask the government for additional powers to control the amplification of sound “through licensing regulations or by other means”.
"The council employs a street enforcement team – I appreciate they have a wide range of responsibilities, but they are a very capable team and are used to dealing with issues like this.”
He said it should also be made easier for residents and businesses to raise concerns.
And there was support for his plea in two written submissions to the council.
Gillian Tait, who has lived in the Grassmarket for 35 years, said controls were urgently needed.
She said: "It would be hard to overstate the negative impact that amplified sound from the street, from buskers and street entertainers has had on the life of residents in the Grassmarket in recent years.
"Musicians now routinely use portable amplifiers that are powerful enough to fill a stadium with their sound, and in the arena-like space of the Grassmarket it bounces off buildings all around, making the noise impossible to escape in any room of the flat."
And she said the issue had been a factor in neighbours’ decisions to move away from the Grassmarket.
"It is noise pollution of the worst kind, making concentration impossible for those like myself who work from home, as well as ruining enjoyment of quieter domestic activities."
The New Town and Broughton Community Council also endorsed Councillor Ross's call for regulation.
It said: "We recognise the concerns of residents, businesses and visitors at the high level of amplification, sometimes used by buskers and street entertainers, in places such as Princes Street.
"We believe there is no easily defined and enforceable level of acceptable amplified sound, especially in places with high ambient street noise. Instead NTBCC recommends a simple ban on amplification, following the successful Copenhagen policy, with musicians and other performers required to use natural acoustic sound."
The coalition initially proposed the issue should be referred to the regulatory committee, but committee convener Cathy Fullerton said she was willing to accept Councillor Ross’s motion.
It called on the council to write to Local Government Minister Ben Macpherson, highlighting the problem and requesting additional powers.
And it requested the council’s street enforcement team to engage actively with buskers and street entertainers to encourage them to follow the council advice on showing consideration for residents and businesses.