Busker served council notice following noise complaints

A busker’s bid to entertain visitors in Stafford town centre has not proved music to the ears of council staff and shop workers.

Market Square in Stafford
Market Square in Stafford

The singer has become a regular fixture in the Greengate Street area in recent months, belting out covers of hits such as Valerie.

But her performances have hit a sore note with local shops where staff and customers struggle to hear one another speak over the music. And Stafford Borough Council has stepped in with a request for the busker to reduce the frequency of her outdoor gigs.

One shop worker, who asked not to be named, said customers had complained about the noise. The Stone resident added: “It’s the volume, it’s a bit much and she does have people asking ‘can you turn the music down’.

“If somebody’s singing that loud you can’t hold a conversation with a customer. And by the time you’ve got the man outside saying ‘Jesus loves you’ – which is beautiful – enough is enough.

“I come in at 10am and she’s having a coffee, then starts about 11am and goes on until about 3pm. Customers joke about it, but it isn’t helping businesses in this end of town if it’s stopping people coming down to shop and they stay at the M&S end.”

A colleague added: “She sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse, she sings covers of things but in her own drawl. Her guitar playing has got a bit better in the two years she has been here.”

Members of Stafford Borough Council heard on Tuesday that the busker had been issued with a community protection notice by the authority.

Helen Marshall, corporate partnership officer responsible for dealing with antisocial behaviour, said: “It is a notice we can serve on someone over the age of 16 by saying the behaviour that you are displaying is having a detrimental effect on quality of life, is persistent and continuing in nature and the behaviour is unreasonable.

“For example, that could be loud music that doesn’t necessarily lead to statutory noise nuisance level that Environmental Health could be able to deal with. We’ve had a young lady who has been busking in the town centre quite a lot over the last six months and it really came to our attention when the High Street started to open back up and shops were saying ‘we can’t have somebody busking outside with an amplifier for five or six hours a day’.

“The starting point is a warning saying this is your behaviour, this is the effect, and you put conditions on there. Being fair, I didn’t want to ban the busker completely, but what I wanted to do was make sure that her impact on the businesses and individual shoppers was minimised.

“The conditions were no consecutive days, so if she busks on a Monday she can’t be there on a Tuesday, and no more than three times in a week. She has to rotate around the High Street as well; that’s not saying she can’t do it, but we’re restricting the impact.

“She breached the warning so the young lady in question got served with a CPN. It does restrict behaviour and a lot of people who get them think ‘actually I need to take notice of this’.”

Councillor Jill Hood thanked the team for issuing the CPN to the busker. She said: “We now have her in Stone High Street, she’s driving the library mad.

“I think personally she has got the most beautiful voice. But she’s the loudest young lady I’ve ever heard.”

Cyclists riding their bikes through Stafford town centre’s pedestrianised area has also been a bone of contention for many. Councillor Ann Edgeller said: “This affects a lot of people in Stafford.

“A lot of it goes off and it doesn’t seem to stop. I have tried saying ‘get off your bike and all I got was verbal abuse.”

Ms Marshall said: “We have been working with police on that and it’s covered by the Public Space Protection Order. We have been out on numerous occasions and if I can’t get in front of the bike quick enough I holler at the top of my voice ‘Oi, you’re on your bike, get off it’.

“It does generally frighten them a bit and gives them a bit of a wobble. But it has the desired effect and they get off and push their bike all the way to the end of the pedestrian area.

“The issue that we’ve got is that the PCSOs who are generally out in the town centre do not have the powers to ticket. It is something that is being put forward, not just by Stafford but by the county as a whole, to look at the powers around PCSOs because that would be more effective.”

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