Agenda item

Agenda item

Graffiti Prevention and Removal

The Scrutiny Committee has requested a report to update them on the use of

Street Art to reduce unwanted tagging in Oxford City.

The Committee is recommended to:

1. Note and comment on the report; and

2. Include any additional recommendations.



The Committee had before it two reports, one dealing principally with street art, and the other with the policy on graffiti removal as delivered by Oxford Direct Services.


Councillor Hayes, Board Member for Safer, Greener, Environment  introduced the item by emphasising the distinction between street art and graffiti. He said the former can be a valuable expression of the values and views of a community and have a very positive effect, the latter is an unacceptable blight. The amount of graffiti had increased considerably in recent years but so had the rate of its removal.


Councillor Chapman, Board Member for Customer Focused Services said Oxford Direct Services (ODS) was intensifying its work to remove graffiti, responding quickly to new incidents and working hard to address a backlog. Central to this new regime was a revision to the previous policy which had required owners of all premises affected by graffiti to pay for its removal. Owners of smaller/private/domestic properties were not now required to pay for removal, although permission to do so was still needed. This facilitated swifter removal and removed the need for sometimes protracted and unsuccessful attempts to persuade owners to pay.


A pragmatic approach was called for in determining whether a charge should be made in a particular case. Dealing with graffiti on buildings/ items owned by utilities could be problematic given those organisations’ policies often resisted intervention by third parties. The loss of income from the new approach was considered by the Board Member to be probably marginal. There was sufficient budgetary provision within ODS for the purpose at the moment on the basis of the present level of demand.


The City Centre and Street Scene Service Manager said that Street Scene teams dealt with ‘low level’ graffiti as part of their usual day to  day work. New working practices were soon to be introduced in which Street Scene colleagues would have responsibility for a particular part of the City and would, as a result, be better placed to spot new graffiti and deal with it quickly. Reports of graffiti from members of the public were dealt with as soon as possible and if, for example,  racist or sexist, treated as urgent priorities. Owners of larger/commercial properties failing to cooperate would, if necessary, be faced with fixed penalty notices.


The Regulatory Services and Community Safety Case Manager said that following a significant increase in the amount of graffiti in 2015, an appreciative inquiry, involving a significant number of stakeholders resulted in agreement that  the Council would provide free wall space for local artists to use.  Officers said the spaces used in this way were well regarded by local communities  and, once established,  were not often damaged by subsequent graffiti. Engagement of and consultation with local communities was essential before proceeding with such a scheme as was   the case in relation to the wall surrounding the Convent of Incarnation in Meadow Lane mentioned in the report.


In discussion it was suggested that the Council might become aware of potential sites with free wall space via its role as planning authority and therefore becoming aware of building sites with hoarding. The protective shutters on commercial premises might also offer other free wall space.


The lack of adequate youth provision in the City as a result of prior decisions by the County Council was regretted and thought likely  to be a contributory factor to the increase in the amount of graffiti.


The Committee noted that judgements about the visual quality of street art was subjective but the Council was fortunate to have access, through contacts established by officers,  to the skills of a number of local and talented artists. Deterioration of murals on permanent surfaces can be  (and is) ameliorated by overpainting.


Councillors expressed mixed views on the benefits of street art, noting that it worked best where it was welcomed by a diversity of residents and set up in appropriate locations.


The Chair thanked the Board Members and officers for their contribution to a useful and full discussion. There had been an appreciation by the Committee both of the work done by Street Scene in tackling graffiti and of the value of well-placed street art.


It was agreed that the Committee should recommend consideration of commercial protective shutters as another source of free wall space and request a further appreciative inquiry, focussing on the issues concerning Meadow Lane described in the report.


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