Removing blight and protecting street art. Tower Hamlets agrees new graffiti and street art policy

shutterstock_367464251.jpgbricklane mural

the new graffitti policy aims to protect street art that is popular and inoffensive


  • New investment in and focus for graffiti removal teams.
  • Evaluation panel to determine the suitability of street art.
  • Big Clean up six underway  


Tower Hamlets council has agreed a new street art and graffiti policy that aims to improve the speed of removal of unsightly graffiti, whilst protecting the borough’s renowned street art that attracts visitors from across the world.


The new policy aims to protect street art and tackle offensive graffiti. The policy will balance the impacts of unsightly “tagging” graffiti, whilst maintaining a clean, safe and vibrant environment for everyone living and working in the borough.


The strategy is agreed in the week that the Big Clean Up, the council’s successful community campaign with partners to tidy up the borough, starts its sixth run.


Under the current arrangements graffiti teams are tasked with removing offensive graffiti within 24 hours and non-offensive graffiti within five working days. This standard will remain however a new focus and means of deciding on the value and popularity of street art will be allowed under the new policy.. .


John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “Our new policy strikes the right balance between removing graffiti that is a blight and at the same time recognising there is a place for legitimate street art. We’re a vibrant inner London borough and we recognise some street art can add character to an area for both residents and visitors to enjoy”. 


Councillor David Edgar Cabinet Member for Environment said; “We’re committed to cleaning up the borough, and so our latest budget invests in a new team to tackle graffiti - we’ve listened to residents’ concerns and responded. We will also work with other landowners so they are doing their bit to clean up the borough”


The council has invested over £400,000 in its budget for four new teams.

Cleaning up graffiti costs the council over £500,000 a year with two dedicated teams carrying out daily removal work. A third team provides additional support in addition other work such as street furniture washing.


In the last 12 months these teams have dealt with hundreds of reported incidents of graffiti, as well as proactive removal from known hotspots and problems areas.


The Council will work with residents and groups to clear up graffiti including initiatives such as the Big Clean Up and graffiti prevention schemes.


In addition the Council recognises the importance of engaging young people through education through schools and organised youth groups in areas where graffiti is identified as a problem.


Local community groups that encourage street art will also be engaged to help identify valued street art and advise the council on measures to protect it.


A criterion for identifying what constitutes street art and where it can be situated is a key part of the policy. This includes taste and decency considerations whether the art is on a council building and the feelings of the community. 

 A decision not to remove the work will be based upon a test of whether the street art or graffiti are considered to be detrimental to the local environment and enjoyment of the location by users.

 The council is now identifying graffiti on property owned by businesses, housing associations, private landlords, Network Rail and Transport for London. This is a priority where the graffiti is having a negative impact on a local area and involves our teams working with these property owners to ensure they remove their own graffiti.

 Graffiti on public buildings highways and street furniture is removed for free by the council, while on Tower Hamlets Homes properties clearance is organised via the local housing office.

On property and estates roads managed by private landlords graffiti removal is the responsibility of the owners. Many have their own graffiti removal teams in place however the council liaises with managing agents to organise graffiti removal.

On other private property if the graffiti is not too large and is accessible from the road or a car park, the council can arrange for its removal free of charge for the first time, subject to a disclaimer being signed by the owner of the property. Subsequent removal would normally be subject to a charging, although fees and charges will be reviewed as part of revised plans.

Posted on Friday 1st March 2019