War declared on North Devon graffiti

EFFORTS are under way to return North Devon to a blank canvas with a scheme seeking to tackle graffiti across the whole district by using the labour of offenders. North Devon Council wants to join forces with other agencies, including the Probation Servic

EFFORTS are under way to return North Devon to a blank canvas with a scheme seeking to tackle graffiti across the whole district by using the labour of offenders.

North Devon Council wants to join forces with other agencies, including the Probation Service, to deal with the urban eyesore and remove it from both public and private properties.

The council has written to town and parish councils asking for a survey of graffiti to build up a picture of the problem and although it is very early days, the hope is to finally come up with a way of dealing with the blight district-wide, at no cost to the owners of the vandalised properties.

The scale of the problem was highlighted by Barnstaple Town Councillor Simon Harvey, who surveyed the graffiti in his town centre ward on behalf of the council's environment committee.


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He found 42 instances in his ward alone, including high profile areas such as Theatre Lane and the long wall behind the Queen Street multi-storey car park.

The problem has always been dealing with graffiti on private property, which is the owners' responsibility, as is the cost of removal and they cannot be made to remove the offending material unless it is of an obscene or racist nature.

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Brian Holme, head of community and leisure services at the council, said, so far, the survey showed pockets of graffiti in the urban areas of Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and South Molton, but less in rural locations, as was to be expected.

"We are trying to work with our partners including the Probation Service, police, fire and youth offending teams and Safer North Devon to see if we can come up with projects to remove it," he said. "We now think we may have an answer to get rid of most graffiti from the urban areas of North Devon and it will be done by the people who have actually committed the crimes in the first place.

"We need the permission of those who own the buildings but it would be at no cost to them, but rather the project we are setting up."

He added that there could be some technical issues with older buildings or those with surfaces which need more specialised care to remove graffiti markings.

Cllr Harvey said the Queen Street wall was typical of a graffiti area within the town centre.

"Having carried out a similar survey six years ago, I can confirm the graffiti has increased by some 70 per cent and I feel some urgent action is needed now because of the impact it is having on the area," he said.

"People park here on holiday and the first thing they see when they get out of the car is this and it's not really what we want for Barnstaple."

Cllr Mike Harrison, deputy leader of the district council, said that, previously, graffiti on private properties had made it very difficult for the council, since the owners were also victims of the crime.

"But this kind of petty vandalism is the sort of thing that really does annoy people," he said.

"If you have been the victim of graffiti, please do contact the council on (01271) 388870 for advice and to find out what options might be available to you.

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