BUSKERS have been banned from playing in York city centre during the Tour de France weekend - unless they are specially commissioned to play at certain locations.

Letters have been handed to musicians from Debbie Bell of the city centre management team, saying that although the weekend of July 5-6 will be really enjoyable, there will be huge restrictions in terms of health and safety, and crowd management.

"Therefore I am writing to advise you that busking in the city centre will be prohibited unless you are otherwise contacted and authorised to perform."

Busker Jonny Walker said the ruling seemed a 'little over the top,' saying: "Whilst I can understand the thinking behind restricting busking during the race itself on the Sunday morning, it strikes me as both arbitrary and unfair to ban busking on the Saturday as well on one of the best days of the calendar year for the city.

"If the council is trying to promote a 'festival' atmosphere, something that buskers contribute towards all year round, then using health and safety to prevent anyone from playing on the Saturday seems a counterproductive way of achieving this."

He also questioned what criteria was used to decide which buskers should be authorised.

Another busker, Roddie Harris, said it might have been better to set certain areas aside for busking rather than have a blanket ban.

But Charlie Croft, Assistant Director of Public Realm at the council, said: "There is not a ban on busking: street performers are welcome to play outside the city walls and along the route of the Tour, but what we are doing is forewarning those who regularly use the city centre, that on the weekend/day of the Tour de France safety has to be at the fore.

"We're expecting many thousands of visitors and, with road closures too, safety has to be our priority and we can't risk crowds building at certain locations which might create problems.

"So, we are working with York Performers' Association to commission entertainers who we will carefully position around the city centre – including Kings Square – to ensure everyone has a great time – and in safety."