Calls to wipe out 'absolute mess' of graffiti after shop fronts city-centre strewn with tags

Calls have been made to clean up graffiti in Edinburgh which is said to be leaving the city centre in an “absolute mess”.

By Jolene Campbell
Friday, 10th June 2022, 4:55 am

Residents and business owners have called on the council and business chiefs to tackle graffiti which has escalated in recent weeks, mainly on boarded-up shops from the former Jenners along to the Woollen Mill at the West End.

‘Unsightly’ tags have also been spotted outside trading business including Barclays bank which recently had windows smashed in, as well at historic sites including the walls around Greyfriars Bobby.

It has sparked warnings vandalism will undermine efforts to improve the city-centre and calls for a more proactive approach to eradicating it and to supporting wider business recovery in the Capital.

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Graffiti on former Jenners store at East end of Princes Street

Terry Levinthal, from the Cockburn Association, said the city has been in a “sad state” for more than a year and said it will affect how the city is perceived by visitors and tourists.

“We've seen diminishing standards in how our streets are managed. If immediate action is not taken on graffiti which has got worse recently then we’ll see a spiral of further decline,” he said.

"If it’s not managed in a positive way it sends a message that people don’t care, leaders are not watching or taking an active interest. That is the perception and it creates conditions for unsocial behaviour like graffiti to thrive.

"The council can’t sit around and do nothing. As tourists come back and local offices reopen I hope we see more interest in dealing with these issues.”

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Kevin Buckle, who owns Avalanche Records in Waverley Market, said customers in his shop had voiced concerns about the state of the streets and said that they were unimpressed with the graffiti.

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He said: “Graffiti has escalated recently and isn’t being cleaned up straight away. Having so many empty shops doesn’t look great and recovery has been harder since St James Quarter opened.

"Princes Street looks an absolute mess. With summer coming up it can’t be allowed to continue.”

Former phone shop on Princes Street strewn with tags

He called on other businesses and business improvement district Essential Edinburgh, which has employed ‘clean teams’ to help keep the state of streets under control, to do their bit to make a change.

"If just one business was to try something different or make a stand then others would follow,” he said.

"But it will take collective effort as well. I know Essential Edinburgh are doing their bit. Maybe they could contact all members promoting cleaning services. Councillors need to show initiative too.”

A former council leader responded to photos shared on social media branding the situation ‘awful’ and while residents complained, with one claiming the city-centre was ‘becoming a dump’.

The former Topshop has been targeted

Heritage chiefs have echoed the concerns and warned it could contribute to a ‘spiral of decline’.

It comes days after business chiefs called for measures to make it affordable for independents and 'new uses' to come in and fill empty-lets.

Following the closure of popular department stores Jenners, Debenhams and BhS, the main street has seen a number of units sitting empty, while shops struggle to bounce back from the pandemic.

Retailers are still grappling with increased competition from online traders and out-of-town shops where shoppers get free parking.

Roddy Smith, chief executive at Essential Edinburgh said: “No doubt graffiti is increasing. It’s unsightly and makes the city-centre unattractive. Our Clean Team regularly remove graffiti from private buildings within the business improvement district at the request of the levy payer. We promote empty units being skimmed or vinyl covered to improve the look for the street. This has been done very successfully already on Princes Street.”