Council teams to clean up Grassmarket graffiti

Work is under way to tackle graffiti in the Grassmarket. Picture: Neil Hanna

Work is under way to tackle graffiti in the Grassmarket. Picture: Neil Hanna

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A war on graffiti has been launched in a bid to clear the Grassmarket of unsightly spray paint.

Specialist teams will be drafted in after the city council vowed to clean up unwanted ‘art’ within a week of being alerted.

And once graffiti hot spots have been identified, ongoing efforts will be made to scrub them out.

It is hoped the scheme – ­devised by the Greater Grassmarket Business Improvement District and the local authority – will make the area more ­attractive to shoppers and tourists.

Greater Grassmarket manager Georgia Artus said the clean-up programme fed into wider drives to improve shop fronts and boost trade.

The zero-tolerance attitude to graffiti came after property owners raised concerns about the cost of removing it.

It is hoped the new ­approach will speed up the clean-up process while ­reducing the financial burden on individual businesses.

Ms Artus said: “Once a property owner has given us consent to ­remove a piece of graffiti from their exterior, any ­further graffiti that occurs can then be removed automatically – the system should be faster and more effective than individuals battling against graffiti alone.”

It can cost a private property owner more than £100 an hour for the council to come and remove it.

The new scheme would help traders by subsidising such costs, with the cash coming from the BID and the council, but it ­remains unclear what final costs will be.

City chiefs are already in talks with several other BID areas – including the city centre’s Essential Edinburgh – about launching a similar service.

Environment convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Graffiti is not only an eyesore for residents and visitors to Edinburgh, but can also have a negative impact for businesses whose exteriors are defaced.

“That’s why we’re pleased to be able to work in partnership with Greater Grassmarket Business ­Improvement District to ­improve the ­appearance of this historic spot for everyone, ­creating a ­welcoming ­atmosphere and co-operating with businesses to deter antisocial behaviour.”

The new project will be a more permanent version of the annual spring clean at the nearby Royal Mile.

In March, a band of spring cleaners ­tackled stubborn graffiti to ready the historic thoroughfare for the tourist season. The five-year Greater Grassmarket scheme, which receives ­mandatory annual levies from local firms was set up last year.

It attracts £127,800 a year, which is used to organise events and run schemes to boost the appearance of the area and encourage trade.

Organisers of the scheme found themselves at the centre of a storm last summer when ­traders threatened to ­withhold payments amid concerns the ­ballot used to set it up was run in an unfair manner.

West Bow jeweller Keith Clarkson said that although he remained sceptical of the scheme, graffiti was a constant bugbear.

“Let’s face it, nobody likes graffiti on their doorstep,” he said. “It all depends how much money is spent on it.

“We all know graffiti breeds graffiti.

“We are committed to the BID for five years, but most of the money still seems to ­promote events that seem to take money away from ­existing businesses.”

Despite the criticism, other traders have been receiving free window boxes or hanging baskets to help improve the look of their shop front. Ms Artus said: “The first round of grants have now been given and positive changes are already starting to be visible.

“Launching the graffiti removal scheme this week is a fantastic further step to maintaining the streets to the high standard they deserve.”

The Red Door Gallery and the Swish clothes shop, both in Victoria Street, have installed window boxes and hanging baskets to brighten them up.

Modern artist’s historical mural

THE Grassmarket will become home to an artist in residence as part of an ambitious project to celebrate the area’s rich history.

Chris Rutterford will create a large-scale historical mural of the area, focusing on its long and varied past.

He will merge history with the modern by incorporating the faces of onlookers and visitors into the scene.

Mr Rutterford will be based in the pedestrian area during weekdays to work on the Grassmarket mural.

His creation will be used as the backdrop to the Greater Grassmarket’s upcoming historical events, which will focus on the history of trading and entertainment in the area.

But parts of the artwork will also be used to improve the look of empty properties in the Grass-market – potentially forming an art exhibition in vacant shop windows.

Mr Rutterford, left, said: “I’m really excited to be working publicly in the Grassmarket throughout August.

“Over the past four years I’ve developed an exciting art practise specialising in turning the production of murals into theatrical events.

“I’ve found it’s a technique that really entertains and fascinates the public.”

He added: “I am planning on producing a piece that reflects the continued vitality and history of the Grassmarket area.”