Punch and Judy could be evicted from Brighton and Hove's seafront by a new law requiring puppeteers to apply for entertainments licences.

Under the Licensing Act, which comes into force next month, travelling puppet shows will be classified as public entertainment - forcing puppeteers to spend hundreds of pounds on a new licence each time they change venue.

Mike Stone, 47, a Punch and Judy puppeteer for 30 years, said: "We are going to have to be licensed like theatre shows and the Punch and Judy booth will have to have a fire exit and wheelchair access, if you take this to its logical conclusion.

"It's preposterous. It's legislation gone mad."

Mr Stone, of Eaton Place, Kemp Town, Brighton, said Punch And Judy had survived criticism in the past - from feminists who objected to Punch's assaults on his wife and animal rights groups who disliked the treatment of the crocodile.

He added: "Mr Punch has weathered so many storms over hundreds of years.

"It's a shame it has come down to Tony Blair putting the nail in Mr Punch's coffin."

There are 300 Punch and Judy shows across Britain.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We recognise the importance of public entertainment like Punch and Judy shows and that is why we are encouraging local authorities to license public spaces.

"However, public entertainment is licensable because issues such as public nuisance can arise."