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“It looks like an inner city no-go area”: Norfolk County Council says it will clean up graffiti - but only if it’s offensive

PUBLISHED: 12:20 03 April 2014 | UPDATED: 18:20 03 April 2014

The underpass leading from Minstergate under a Norwich Rd in Thetford which is blighted with graffiti. Stuart Wilson and Corinne Fulford.

The underpass leading from Minstergate under a Norwich Rd in Thetford which is blighted with graffiti. Stuart Wilson and Corinne Fulford.

Budding Banksys in Norfolk can rest assured their work will go untouched after it emerged that unsightly graffiti will stay put - as long as they keep it clean.

The underpass leading from Minstergate under a Norwich Rd in Thetford which is blighted with graffiti.
Stuart Wilson and Corinne Fulford.The underpass leading from Minstergate under a Norwich Rd in Thetford which is blighted with graffiti. Stuart Wilson and Corinne Fulford.

Norfolk County Council revealed this week that it will now only remove graffiti that is “racist or offensive”, due to budget constraints.

But that does not appear to stretch to extreme political slogans, with council staff ignoring the initials of the English Defence League (EDL) during a recent clean-up.

Its policy emerged after officers refused to remove scrawled images from a vandalised underpass in Minstergate, Thetford.

Stuart Wilson, secretary of the Thetford Society, wrote to the council on March 13 asking it to clean up the thoroughfare after it was daubed with spray paint.

The council - which deals with graffiti on underpasses and bridges - told Mr Wilson that it would not scrub out the vandal’s handiwork as it was not offensive enough.

Andrew Wadsworth, county council engineer, said: “Our inspector for the area has visited the subway and we all agree that there is graffiti, but none of it would fit into the offensive category, with the graffiti being incomprehensible tags and the like.

“Unfortunately we do not have a large enough budget to carry out all of our essential works so have to prioritise maintenance works, which means that we cannot remove graffiti purely because it is unsightly.”

An officer has since returned to the underpass to paint over one image which was agreed to be offensive after a follow-up request by Mr Wilson.

All other graffiti in the underpass was left - including the EDL initials.

Mr Wilson said the reaction showed the council “couldn’t care less” about how areas are presented.

“Officers seem to have adopted a policy of ignoring the observations in the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 which notes that graffiti can be ‘detrimental to the amenity of an area’.

“Local residents and the Town Council have asked for the site to be cleaned but County policy dictates that residents and visitors have to suffer a sight reminiscent of the worst inner city no-go areas,” he said.

Corinne Fulford, town councillor, said the graffiti was “an embarrassment”.

““I’m exceptionally proud of Thetford and it always saddens me that any local authority needs to spend money on dealing with avoidable issues such as litter and graffiti, however, although often dismissed as the ‘small stuff’ it is this lack of care that directly affects resident’s quality of life and impacts massively on a visitor’s experience.

“I and other colleagues are looking at the potential for a community project that will deal with the eyesore of our underpasses - I am hopeful that our local authorities will be able to find a way of supporting such an approach.”

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council: “On this occasion, our inspector visited the area and although he did see some graffiti, didn’t spot anything offensive on the walls and ceiling.

“Clearly, and regrettably, this was our mistake and we are very sorry if this upset or offended anybody. Upon another inspection, we noticed the offensive item on the ceiling of the underpass and made immediate arrangements to remove the graffiti and did so at 8am two days later.”

What do you think of the policy? Let us know by emailing the newsdesk on newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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