Southwark Council will start removing graffiti from private property free of charge in a bid to stem the rising tide of illegal tagging.
Traditionally, the council has removed spray-paintings from its own properties while charging private property owners for the clean-up service.
Locals had complained that an “epidemic” of graffiti had made areas like Peckham feel “intimidating” and “run down”.
But following a policy change approved earlier this month, Southwark Council will remove graffiti from private property for free as long it isn’t over two metres above ground level.
According to a council report, the policy change aims to stem the rise of unsightly daubings at minimal cost to the taxpayer.
Southwark Council has seven graffiti removal teams responsible for tackling vandalism on the sides of buildings. But they’ve struggled to keep up.
According to council data, the level of graffiti has doubled since 2018, from a score of 4.96 to 10 per cent last year.
In June, the News reported that in Peckham, one area particularly inundated with street art, ‘posh’ graffiti-vandals were flocking to the area to paint its walls.
Peckham resident Jennifer Chelley said: “They say that people come from all over because it’s the only place [they] can do it and [they] don’t get stopped.”
The increase in graffiti is made worse by the fact that private property owners are often reluctant to remove graffiti themselves.
According to Southwark Council, most owners aren’t willing, or cannot afford, the cost of graffiti removal.
Some fear the vandals will return post-clean-up, while others are simply tolerant of it.
Southwark Council currently spends £215,000 per year on graffiti removal and says the policy change will only result in “a marginal extra use of resources”.
Graffiti clean-up teams will focus on erasing graffiti in close proximity to council buildings, which they would normally clear up anyway.
Local campaign group Peckham Vision welcomed the move. A spokesperson said: “Rye Lane is suffering from an epidemic of graffiti, defacing its buildings, degrading the public realm, making the street and its environs appear run down and intimidating, especially after dark.
“We welcome the Council’s recent decision to waive charges for graffiti removal on privately owned buildings – up to now only for Council-owned assets.
“While not just confined to Rye Lane, we ask the Council to be proactive, approaching building owners to agree to cleaning as well as taking action to deter and prosecute offenders.”
The group did however express concern that no extra money was being used to fund the policy change.
There are also limits to the council’s newfound powers. It will only tackle graffiti up to two metres above ground level without charge. This is because removing graffiti at height is more complex and costly.
Southwark Council has indicated this is just one of a range of actions available to tackle graffiti.
Others include working with police to identify and prosecute graffiti vandals, community protection notices and the use of community art initiatives including murals.
Southwark Council aims to remove 98 per cent of graffiti within 24 hours, a target it claims to have “historically” met.
Southwark residents are encouraged to report graffiti to the council using the FixMyStreet app. Campaign group Peckham Vision is also inviting locals to an event where they’ll be able to nominate local buildings they believe are in need of a clean-up.