New Council Graffiti Policy – Comment Now!

Being out of play for the last couple of weeks means this has got missed, although to be fair the council’s hardly been shouting from the rooftops about it.

They’ve finally got a new graffiti policy drafted for the city, and if you want to  have your say, comments on it need to be in by midday this Tuesday (17th November). It’s going to be discussed by the Clean and Green board on the 19th. So they’re not leaving themselves much time to write up the results of the consultation. Or maybe that’s all part of the same thing.

Anyway, the new draft policy is below. Give it a read through, and if you’ve got any comments on it, send them to Denise James at Clean and Green quickly ! Email

Bristol City Council
Graffiti Policy


The City Council has as part of the National Indicators (NI195) a duty to make your local area safe, clean and green.  It requires graffiti to be removed as quickly as possible and appropriate enforcement action taken against offenders.

Graffiti has always existed and has historically been regarded as having a negative feature that reduces the quality of the environment.  It can also be seen as a sign of decay and can generate a fear of neighbourhood crime and instability.

In recent years, however, graffiti has evolved into popular culture and it is now widely recognised that it can also be an art form that contributes to the urban environment.  This is frequently referred to as Street art or graffiti art.

This policy seeks to redefine the City Council’s approach to graffiti in this context.

Definition of Street art/Graffiti

For the purpose of this policy, we differentiate between graffiti, which is generally considered to have a negative impact and Street art/graffiti art, which is generally regarded as a more artistic and considered intervention.


Graffiti includes illegal or unauthorised drawings, scribbles, messages, tags, etchings, or designs that are painted, written, sprayed, etched, pasted or otherwise affixed to a surface such as walls, street and park furniture or other edifice or structure without the property owners consent.

Offensive Graffiti

Offensive graffiti may be defined as Graffiti above but contain some or all of the following:

  • Offensive language, language of a politically, Racially, Religiously insulting or inciting nature
  • Hate statements
  • Graphically explicit images
  • Graphically intimidating images or text
  • Images that are textually or visually offensive in context
  • Libellous or potentially libellous statements

The Council will always seek to remove offensive graffiti.

Street Art/Graffiti Art

Can include painting, writing, murals that are painted, written, sprayed, etched or carved on the surface of buildings, walls, the street and park furniture or other edifice or structure.

Street art/Graffiti art may be deemed to have a positive impact on the local environment, subject to other relevant considerations.  It may, however, also fall into the categories of offensive graffiti as above.

As well as causing detriment to the environment, graffiti and street art/graffiti art can under certain circumstances amount to a criminal offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.  Where the value of the criminal damage exceeds £5,000 the maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding the Statutory maximum and/or 6 months imprisonment.  Where the damage does not exceed £5,000, the maximum penalty is £2,500 and/or 3 months imprisonment.  The Police Service is the only enforcement agency with the legislative powers to prosecute an offence of Criminal Damage.

Graffiti art/Street art in Conservation areas
A conservation area is defined as ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’ according to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.  Under S71 (1) of the Act it is the duty of the Planning Authority to formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas.

Bristol’s defining characteristic is the outstanding architectural quality and extent of its historic environment.  This is reflected in the designation of the majority of the city centre and a number of suburban areas as conservation areas, and the large number of listed buildings.

Graffiti art/Street art will not normally be considered acceptable in a conservation area as it is:

  • Not generally appropriate to the character of the historic environment
  • Potentially damaging to the historic fabric of buildings, particularly stone and brickwork
  • Would obscure details/features that make a positive contribution to the character of the local area

In exceptional circumstances, where buildings have been empty or derelict for some time and are contributing to a reduction in the quality and character of the conservation area, street art/graffiti art may be acceptable.  This must, however, be on a temporary basis, egg on temporary hoardings and not on the historic fabric of the building.

Graffiti art/Street art may be considered acceptable where it is:

  • Of exceptionally high artistic quality and
  • Does not impact negatively on the wider conservation area and
  • Does not damage or obscure the historic fabric of the building or environment

Street art/Graffiti art on Listed Buildings
Under the provisions of Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservations Areas) Act 1990, the application of graffiti to a listed building without the required Listed Building Consent is a criminal offence if it is considered to be an alteration, which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

Listed Building Consent for street art/graffiti art would require the notification of the property owner.

Graffiti art/Street art will not normally be considered acceptable on a listed building.  Exceptions as above.

Summary of Our Powers & Responsibilities

The Council is responsible for removing graffiti from Council owned properties, parks and the highways.  Items such as telephone boxes, Network Rail property and Structures, bus shelters and electricity boxes are the responsibility of the private companies.  The starting point in regard to private and commercial property is that removal of graffiti is generally the responsibility of the owner.  Although the Council will exercise its discretion and provide graffiti removal services for which a charge may be made.  This policy focuses on reducing unlawful graffiti on property and land that is not on Council owned property.

The Council has the power to, amongst other things: –

  • Remove graffiti from privately owned or commercial property following a request from the owner and subject to the receipt of a signed indemnity form.
  • Charge for this service, although in most cases it is offered for free
  • Issue “Graffiti Removal Notices” under section 43 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003.  Requiring the person responsible for the “relevant surface” to remove the defacement within a period of 28 days where the defacement is detrimental to the amenity of the area or is offensive.
  • Where the recipient of a “Graffiti Removal Notice” fails to comply with the requirements of the Notice, an authorised officer of the local authority may enter the land to the extent necessary to enable it to remedy the defacement and may recover expenditure reasonably incurred in exercising this power
  • Issue Fixed Penalty Notices where an authorised officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence of criminal damage/graffiti has been committed.
  • Initiate prosecution proceedings where considered appropriate to do so under Section 215 Town and Country Planning Act 1990.  In addition, the Council, as a Public Body, has a number of obligations, which include, among other things:

Under section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976, section 49A of the Disability Discrimination and section 76A of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Council, in carrying out its functions, has an obligation to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination.

This graffiti removal policy sets out how we expect to exercise the above obligations and powers.


  • Bristol City Council will seek to keep the city safe, clean and green.
  • Bristol City Council will endeavour to remove unwanted and offensive graffiti and street art.
  • Bristol City Council will support the right for property owners not to have unwanted graffiti or street art on their property.

Achieve targets of cleanliness set by the National Indicators (NI195), which are government guidelines that compare one council’s performance with another and set targets for improvement on graffiti levels by:

Removing graffiti promptly
Working in partnership with Council services, schools, external agencies and voluntary and community organisations to prevent and tackle graffiti
Engaging local residents to tackle graffiti using graffiti prevention methods best suited to their area
Taking enforcement action where considered appropriate to do so in the form of, among other things, service of Statutory Notices, Prosecutions and/or Fixed Penalty Notices.

Specifically Bristol City Council will deliver these objectives through:

  • Encouraging reporting of graffiti through
  • Promotion of the Access to Bristol channels such as the Customer Service Centre, Customer Service Points and web-based reporting.
  • Promotion of reporting graffiti as Criminal Damage to the dedicated Police Graffiti Team.
  • Promotion of the graffiti removal service and publicising successful local solutions.

Removal of Graffiti on the Basis of the Following Priorities:

Removal of any racist graffiti/street art or that which offends any of the equalities enactments by the end of the next working day after being reported. With or without signed indemnity
Removal of non-offensive graffiti, where the owner/person responsible has requested us to do so within 5 working days of being reported.  We will prioritise the removal of such graffiti based on the size of the area covered, location and content whilst taking local pressures and opinions into account so as to make the best use of graffiti removal resources, accompanied by a signed indemnity form.
Schedule regular removal of graffiti from hotspot areas citywide, with sensitivity to local situations.
Where the owner/person responsible for the property upon which the defacement has occurred does not consent to removal of the graffiti, we will exercise our statutory powers under section 48 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, save for in cases where, for example, the graffiti is offensive and the exercise of such powers would cause un-necessary delay in the removal of such graffiti.

Note:  All graffiti is to be removed in accordance within Health and Safety limitations and within removal guidelines according to the surface i.e. Graffiti at certain levels for example higher than 2.1 metres may not be possible to remove, graffiti to be removed from surfaces only where the surface material permits.  And subject to receipt of indemnity form from property owners except in the case of offensive graffiti (See examples above)

Recording Graffiti

The Council will gather detailed information on graffiti from the first report through to removal as evidence and to aid the removal prioritisation process.

The Council will gather and store photographic evidence to support legal cases against graffiti offenders, and share intelligence where appropriate with other enforcement agencies, including the police.

Graffiti art/Street art

Where murals or artworks are deemed to make a positive contribution to the local environment and where the property owner has raised no objection, we may make the decision not to exercise our discretionary enforcement powers and/or powers of removal.

In such a case specific consultation may be carried out internally with the planning department and with the Executive Member and externally with local residents and the owner of the property

Engagement with Communities

Support applications from residents and residents’ groups who would like to manage graffiti by displaying a mural in a specific location through a process of consultation and gaining permission from property owners for the artwork.  This particularly applies in areas where there is a history of graffiti and tagging.

Support application from residents and residents’ groups who would like to manage graffiti on public buildings, by displaying a mural through a process of consultation.

Support residents and residents groups in creating alternative diversions to tagging and graffiti problems, such as community clean ups, and preventative planting schemes.

On line voting proposed (to be discussed at CAP and C & G board)

Street Art/Graffiti Mural Review Panel (to be discussed at C & G board)

Engage young people through an on-going programme of education and diversionary techniques, including through schools and organised youth activities.

Work in partnership with Culture and Leisure Services to deliver diversionary art projects such as self-managed legal walls and workshops.

Dealing with Offenders

Work closely with the Police, British Transport Police and local communities to identify tags and the taggers, collect evidence and pursue court action as appropriate.

Support restorative justice approaches for offenders.

Work with the Bristol City Council’s Youth Offending Team to include young offenders and probationers who have been convicted of graffiti vandalism in involving them in diversionary art projects and workshops, and in graffiti removal.

Monitoring and Review

Monitor incidences of graffiti according to area and direct resources where most needed.

Develop relationships with officers from other local authorities, “Keep Britain Tidy Group”, Central Government and other agencies, to share information on successes and failures in combating graffiti.

Resources Committed

The Council’s Waste and Street Scene service has the lead responsibility for dealing with graffiti.

The Council will continue to invest in client management and contractor delivery of graffiti removal.

Continue to seek funds for removal from other sources e.g. from other departments that are responsible for other structures and buildings, such as street and park furniture.


Filed under Bristol

7 responses to “New Council Graffiti Policy – Comment Now!

  1. Pingback: Libby Miller (libbymiller) 's status on Sunday, 15-Nov-09 16:21:32 UTC -

  2. uuurgh!

    Offensive Graffiti

    Offensive graffiti may be defined as Graffiti above but contain some or all of the following:

    * Offensive language, language of a politically, Racially, Religiously insulting or inciting nature
    * Hate statements
    * Graphically explicit images
    * Graphically intimidating images or text
    * Images that are textually or visually offensive in context
    * Libellous or potentially libellous statements

    …sounds awfully like most billboards and advertising i see daily!!!!!

  3. dead yoke

    you know what, i don’t actually care about this! don’t get me wrong – thanks for posting it – but it doesn’t really change anything for me. the city is still covered in litter, piles of fly-tipped rubbish and dog shit, and don’t even get me started on the concrete carbuncles erected by 1960s town planners in the the name of Modernism (lets put a few of those to a public vote shall we?)

    also chances are, before the day is over, i will have to listen to someone else’s crap music being played at ear-splitting volume in a public place. not trying to sound like Victor Meldrew here, honest…

    graffiti is just another anti-social ‘quality of life’ offence. as the respondent above me points out you could quite easily put billboards on the list too. it just so happens that i don’t really mind graffiti as much as a lot of the other stuff you have to put up with living in an urban environment.

  4. uuurgh!

    good shout dead yoke,couldnt agree more!

  5. Mr. E

    * Images that are textually or visually offensive in context

    That’s down to the individuals own perception. Twats.

  6. completely agree with yoke, compared to most things in cities graffiti is the last of my concerns

  7. Mgeorge733

    Someone should print the whole Council Graffiti Policy up on a wall, and then see what they make of that.

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