Council's underage drinking signs in Norfolk town branded 'graffiti'

The message, which has been stenciled at locations around Downham Market town centre.

The message, which has been stenciled at locations around Downham Market town centre. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

Warning messages about underage drinking which a council has daubed on the pavement in several locations across a Norfolk town have been branded as "graffiti" by residents.

The signs, which display the words 'Buying for an U18? It's an offence' alongside a bottle, have been stenciled on paving in the centre of Downham Market.

West Norfolk Council (WNC) had placed the messages on behalf of the Community Alcohol Partnership as part of a campaign to address underage alcohol drinking.

One of the markings has been stenciled near the town clock in Downham Market.

One of the markings has been stenciled near the town clock in Downham Market. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

One sign has been placed near the town clock, while others are at the town hall car park, in Wales Court and at Tesco.

The council said they were created with water-soluble stencils and are intended to be a short-term measure, which will wash away naturally.

But the authority has since been accused of being responsible for "graffiti" with residents reporting the signs on website FixMyStreet - where people can log complaints about flytipping, potholes and other problems - and called for the messaging to be removed.

One post said: "The ornate paving near the town clock has been graffitied.

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The message was also placed on ground near the public toilets on the Town Hall Car Park.

The message was also placed on ground near the public toilets on the Town Hall Car Park. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

Another resident, who asked not to be named, criticised the idea itself as "clumsy, invasive and immature" and contacted WNC about his complaint.

He said: "It was claimed that this is not graffiti because ‘it is not permanent and caused no permanent damage’.

"I wonder if they would feel the same way if someone did the same thing to their car?"

A WNC spokesperson acknowledged it had not initially communicated the initiative to Downham Market Town Council or the town's Tesco store, but that both were "supportive" following contact.

The spokesperson added: "A small number of people raised concerns about the messages with the town council but we understand that the majority of these were satisfied when they understood the reasons and the wider campaign. One person has made a formal complaint."

A marking near the Downham Market town clock, which appears to be coming off following rain on Wednesday.

A marking near the Downham Market town clock, which appears to be coming off following rain on Wednesday. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

The council says it will remove the signs on May 19, if they have not washed away by then.

A DMTC spokesperson said the town council is "fully supportive" of the partnership's work.