PRIDE IN SHEFFIELD: Plea to keep city free of graffiti as council reveals it had more than 1,700 removal requests in a year
People across Sheffield are urging graffiti taggers to stop vandalising their streets with unsightly spray paint.
In the last financial year, the council has received a staggering 1,716 requests to clean graffiti from highways and parks.
This figure does not take into account how many businesses and other privately-owned properties are suffering.
In the first of a series of articles in The Star this week, looking into the impact of graffiti and litter on our city, we hear from some of the business owners who say the ‘constant battle’ against graffiti is damaging their livelihoods and stopping customers visiting their premises.
Costs of cleaning products and removal services add up and people are begging ‘taggers’ – graffiti artists who sign their names or a symbol in spray paint – to stop making their mark on the city’s buildings.
Readers said the area worst affected is the city centre including Queen’s Road and Abbeydale Road, as well as the area behind Sheffield train station, creating an unwelcoming image to the city.
Artist Richard Bartle, who manages Bloc Studios, a workspace for 65 artists in the city centre, said he is fed up with cleaning graffiti off the property.
He said tags have been scrawled all over the building on Sylvester Street – including on the windows, billboards he has commissioned for artwork, and even the toilets inside.
Mr Bartle, who has run Bloc Studios for more than 20 years, said: “It’s a constant battle. It’s awful because I am trying to bring art to the city. These people have got no respect for the artwork on display. We’re not some awful corporate company, I built this from nothing. We actually do have some street artists in our studios too. When you look out the window and there’s graffiti on it, it makes you feel damaged and invaded.”
Costs for removing the graffiti keep adding up but Mr Bartle is worried he will be fined by the council if he does not clean up after the vandals.
He said: “The cleaning costs about £30 a time but the council have the right to fine you if you don’t clean it so you’ll have to pay either way. It really gets me down.
“The worst thing is that they don’t see that they are walking into the hands of the property developers by making the place seem worthless. It gets harder all the time to convince the council that our cultural quarter is somewhere worth saving.”
Mr Bartle said that while he is angry about people tagging his building, he thinks there is a place for graffiti in the city.
He said: “I just want them to stop and turn what they are doing into something more and take pride in the area. By all means do graffiti but stop tagging. It’s just destructive and disrespectful.
“I don’t have a problem with graffiti artists, it is the taggers that are causing me problems. As a city we have lots of graffiti and that’s good, it makes the city more interesting, it brightens the place up. I’m an artist myself and I think we should have it. But this is affecting the whole area.”
And is not just Mr Bartle who has been affected.
Alyas Khan, who owns Pause Panini on Abbeydale Road, said his shutters have been sprayed with graffiti – and almost every shop along the road has been vandalised.
Mr Khan, who only opened the sandwich shop in January, said he cleaned off the graffiti only for it to be resprayed two days later.
He said: “I gave the shutters a good clean but a couple of days later it was back. The same person did a couple of shops further down as well.
“It’s horrible to look at so I try and keep the shutters up as much as I can. It does bring the area down, which is a shame because it’s a beautiful, multicultural area.”
He said that the unsightly scribbles made the area look ‘unwelcoming’ and added: “Businesses do struggle for customers because it puts people off. It’s a form of anti-social behaviour, which there is quite a bit of around here.”
Mr Khan said more measures should be put in place to help deter offenders and urged people to come forward if they had seen anyone spraying graffiti or knew who the culprit was.
He said: “There’s been loads of places that have been done and someone must have seen something. We could do with having more police officers patrolling the streets, keeping an eye out for these people.”
The council are calling for Sheffielders to report graffiti on both public and private property when they see it.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment, said: “Sadly, graffiti is an unwelcome sight in most towns and cities across the country, but it is wrong, and it is avoidable.
“We work hard to clean graffiti but we need telling when it appears. Because we don’t put it there, we can’t always know about it, so please don’t assume someone else will tell us, because this could mean we don’t find out about it.
“Even where we don’t remove graffiti from privately-owned properties, we need to know so we can make sure it is removed by the owners.
“Last year alone we responded to more than 1,700 requests across the city. We thank residents for their help with that. Let’s carry on working together to keep our city clean.”
* Graffiti can be reported at Sheffield City Council or by calling 0114 273 4567.