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Graffiti and the
Vansittart Road Underpass

A Puce Error!!!

December 2001

Original Underpass Wall 1999

The brightly painted panels opposite The Millennium Mural in the Vansittart Road Underpass. The above photo was taken in September 1999 soon after the mural had been completed. Now all this is lost following an ill-judged 'clean-up' by RBWM.

Detail from the Vansittart Road Underpass Mural.
For background please see The Original Mural in 1999

See also Graffiti in The Borough and
Vansittart Road Skate Park Home Page

Graffiti overpainted in puce!

For many months the underpass beside the Skate Park has been a disgrace. Borough claims that they are fighting graffiti have been received skeptically by local residents as weeks and months go by with little attention, although it is true to say that back in August the mural itself received some much needed cleaning with a protective coating applied that wasa designed to facilitate the removal of any subsequent graffiti.
The point must be made, however, that if a treated wall is defaced, the local residents still have to put up with the unsightly mess until such time as the highly specialised equipment and treatments required are used to remove it. This could easily mean a wait of a good few weeks, with the graffiti getting progressively worse daily.
Come December and action has finally been taken to remove months of graffiti but local residents are furious.
Instead of the brightly coloured panels, illustrated above, that complemented the mural itself, the Borough have elected to paint the entire side of the underpass in one seriously unfortunate shade of puce! The Borough have also decided to apply a costly anti-graffiti coating to this unfortunate choice of decor. Apparently this specially prepared paint is intended to match the Royal Borough's letterhead...

Puce underpass...

Throughout 2001 this wall had been increasingly heavily attacked by vandals and even the photographs below (taken in November 2001) do not fully show the appalling state of the underpass when action was finally taken this week.

Graffiti Novemver 2001

Graffiti Novemver 2001

Disorganised Graffiti Removal

Regretably this matter has highlighted the disorganised nature of graffiti removal in the Royal Borough. Apparently there is no fixed contract for this kind of work in Windsor although the problem is a serious one. We hear that the Borough has attempted to counter the problem by requesting contract landscape gardeners to clean the swings and childrens' roundabouts, etc. whilst ill-equipped and untrained council staff are also expected to do what they can. Unfortunately they are unfamiliar with the specialised chemicals required for the many different surfaces upon which graffiti is sprayed. These include glass, plastics, paint and brickwork. It means therefore that an incorrect treatment can make matters worse.
An 'ad hoc' arrangement that WMBC has with Abelclean of Reading is doubtless insufficient. There is no specific contract with the company and so regular, consistent and effective attention to the problems of graffiti fail to be provided.
Windsor residents believe that despite press announcements that the problem is considered of the highest priority and that reported graffiti will be removed within days, the fact of the matter is that there is no regular or full-time facility to achieve this stated aim. We think there should be. We also think that a concerted effort must be made to identify those responsible, which has not been effectively implemented to date. Without such action, the problem will continue to grow, the town will become increasingly unsightly, and the costs of removal will spiral.

The Observer reports 'Increased Pressure on Graffiti Vandals'

In this week's edition of the Observer, 14th December 2001, it is reported that special mural sites are to be set up where graffiti will be permitted. Cllr. Derek Wilson is reported to support the idea, saying "They could do artistic mural painting as opposed to simple spraying whatever they want." Mr Wilson is hoping to reduce the amount of mindless graffiti by aiming their artistic talent towards a programme that is better for the community.
It has also been announced that graffiti vandals wil be required to clean up after themselves, but judging by the struggle that the professionals have, even on treated areas such as the Mural at Vansittart Road Underpass, the vandals will have their work cut out...

... on the other hand, perhaps not, as there has not been one single arrest in the past year.

UPDATE 21.12.01

The Windsor Observer "Lilac Whine"

Further to the above, The Windsor Observer, on 21st December 2001 (p. 3) published a news item under the heading 'Lilac Whine' which implied that all was well and that a local resident's complaint about the colour selection was just a 'whine'. The overall impression was therefore given that the Borough had acted and chosen wisely.

Thamesweb have answered as follows:

The article on page 3 of the Windsor Observer, whilst headed by a jolly amusing pun on wine, does not reflect the real point about the Borough's effectiveness in combatting graffiti in the Borough.
The Observer has reported quite regularly in the last year concerning the Borough's efforts to tackle the problem of graffiti, but there is precious little evidence of any improvements to date. The shortcomings include:

No permanent contract with professional removal teams.

Seemingly no success in identifying or prosecuting those responsible.

A dismally slow response time in cleaning up reported instances.

Treatment of vulnerable areas with an anti-graffiti coating to aid removal - but from which reported graffiti is not removed for weeks, if not months!

A published 'Graffiti Line' phone number that has changed at least once, and which does not actually get directly through to the individual responsible for organising graffiti removal.

Contract gardeners asked to clean graffiti from play areas, and council staff too, equipped with just the odd tin of cleaning chemicals which are often not appropriate for the type of clean-up required.

The efficacy of providing 'legal' graffiti areas as reported recently are unproven. The British Transport Police in their studies on the problem have taken the view that they are undesirable on three counts: 1. They generate graffiti in neighbouring areas; 2. Breed new offenders; and 3. Provide an excuse for carrying paint spray cans when challenged elsewhere (BTP, internal memorandum, 1990).

Res idents can raise little enthusiasm for the work that the Borough initiated at Vansittart Road underpass for a variety of reasons. In September 1999 an excellent job was done in complementing the Oakbridge Millennium Mural on one side with brightly painted coloured panels opposite and throughout the length of the underpass, a project that was applauded by all those that walked by. It obviously generated a good deal of respect from the graffiti vandals too because it was many months before serious graffiti attacks commenced. These subsequent attacks came about because the initial, comparatively insignificant, attacks were not removed promptly so it became 'fair game'.
Now we have one giant, puce-coloured canvas for which the vandals have no respect at all. So little respect, in fact, that the new puce paint was vandalised on the very first day of the clean-up, actually before the work was even completed! Now, one week later, the vandals are back, the panels being attacked towards the end of the day on Thursday 20th December. This matter has been reported to the Borough. We wait and see how long it takes before the scrawls are removed.
The time-scale between graffiti attacks and their removal is important. Quite apart from residents having to put up with its unsightliness for months, the vandalism is legitimised if the vandals see no interest in, or attempts at, cleaning away and removing the eyesore.
The Royal Borough spokesman, when claiming that the single colour at Vansittart Road underpass was selected to facilitate repainting, ignores the fact that no repainting is now possible because an anti-graffiti coat has been applied to this ghastly puce canvas, totally wasting the time and costs expended creating the original, multi-coloured panels.
Residents' 'beef' is that the Borough didn't choose to protect their original investment in the high quality, genuinely more attractive colour scheme, choosing to destroy it after little more than two years, in the interest of financial economy, with scant regard for its attractiveness. In the absence of any attempts to combat the causes of graffiti, or to identify the perpetrators, this 'economy' will doubtless prove false as the endless clean-up costs spiral. These costs can admittedly be pruned by not bothering to clean off the graffiti for months on end.
So be it, this a 'whine'. Nevertheless we wish all the staff at the RBWM, our councillors, and The Observer a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...

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