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Council urged to think of ‘creative solutions’ to tackle ‘explosion’ of graffiti

'My belief is that council can play a bigger role in addressing this issue and, without intervention, we allow it to spiral out of control'

Graffiti at the Carleton St bus stop, Portadown

A notice of motion has been passed at ABC Council calling for an exploration of solutions to address the scourge of graffiti in the borough.

Speaking at the full meeting of ABC Council, DUP Councillor Kyle Moutray, said his motion was prompted by, “the sudden resurgence and plight of graffiti across this borough”.

Describing the problem as a “long-standing issue”, he said there was a “very genuine concern” for the impact made by graffiti on the visual appearance of the borough’s towns and villages and also on the wellbeing of residents.

“The scenic Bann Bridge in Portadown is spoiled by mindless graffiti and in recent months it is now becoming common in residential areas where this was never the case previously,” he said.

He further noted that current provisions for graffiti removal by PCSPs (Policing and Community Safety Partnerships) only extend to graffiti deemed ‘offensive’, adding that many of the tags around Portadown are “not offensive but an eyesore”.

He continued: “My belief is that council can play a bigger role in addressing this issue and, without intervention, we allow it to spiral out of control.

“The only way we are going to get to grips with this is by actively exploring an effective system that works for council, for residents and for all statutory bodies involved.

“This motion will allow council to explore options to eliminate graffiti and in turn to make our communities cleaner and tidier places to live, work and play.”

Councillor Moutray’s party colleague and motion seconder, Councillor Lavelle McIlwrath, described the graffiti in Portadown as “absolutely ridiculous”, noting that the town has had an “explosion” of graffiti in recent months.

“Virtually every gable wall that’s free has some sort of tag on it,” he said.

UUP Councillor Kate Evans, while agreeing that Portadown town was an “absolute shambles” in regards to graffiti, proposed an amendment that the council contact the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to ensure they take “swift action” to remove graffiti on road signs.

This was seconded by the UUP Alderman Glenn Barr.

Sinn Fein Councillor Catherine Nelson noted, however, that council was unable to remove graffiti that is not on council-owned land, stating she had concerns about the ability to deliver due to staffing and money shortages.

She said: “Our party are up for this form and discussion and building it into the estimates process going forward,” suggesting an amendment be added to reference this process.

The amendment was seconded by Sinn Fein Councillor Keith Haughian, who said the PCSPs’ capacity to tackle graffiti was hampered by resource and cost and would struggle without additional funding.

The amendments were accepted by Councillor Moutray, who said there was “room to explore funding in the estimates process”.

Among those to comment on the motion was DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray, who said: “Tonight’s debate has been exploratory and nobody is setting parameters as to where we go and where we end up. It’ll take a considerable period of time to work something up.”

Independent Unionist Alderman Paul Berry said: “What the crux of this motion is asking for in the short term is a partnership approach and a more active approach by council and other authorities.”

He said it was important that council have a “route” to raise the issue with other authorities.

There was unanimous support for the notice of motion and, in closing, Councillor Kyle Moutray commented: “The essence of this is exploratory and the resource isn’t there from PCSP to remove every part of graffiti.”

He pointed to a dedicated hub by Belfast City Council for reporting graffiti and said there should be a memorandum of understanding with other public agencies, adding: “I’d invite some council officers to come forward with creative solutions.”

Read more: ‘Time for action’ in tackling ‘out of control’ graffiti

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