A tourist planning a trip to Cheltenham might google a visitor guide to help them decide what to see. One online source states “Cheltenham is considered to have some of the best preserved Regency architecture in Britain. The town abounds in elegant architecture with Regency terraces and swirling wrought-iron flourishes along Suffolk Square and Queen's Parade.”
It's a description we in Cheltenham would recognise. We owe a debt to Joseph Pitt, the lawyer of humble origins who conceived of his extraordinary scheme for Pittville. We remember too Henry Thompson who laid out the plans for Montpellier, and his son who commissioned the Rotunda which is now home to the Ivy. These visionaries made Cheltenham the beautiful place it is today.
So I’m concerned that a growing tide of graffiti is harming our town. We’ve seen repeated vandalism of the Minster, with obscene scrawls on one of Cheltenham’s most ancient buildings. Tags are springing up on utilities cabinets from Gloucester Road to Albion Street.
And we’re now starting to see graffiti in the town centre. Just the other day, I was walking towards John Lewis from Boots Corner and I noticed a tag on the frontage itself, up in the corner towards the roof. Vandals had clearly accessed the wall from the car park to damage the building.
It's high time our town hit back against the vandals. Graffiti is not a victimless crime. It degrades the urban environment, drives away investment and deters tourists.
CBC is responsible for removing graffiti from public buildings, street furniture or monuments, and they will remove it from privately owned residential properties if the graffiti is offensive. You can make a report online.
But prevention is better than cure, and illegal behaviour needs to be deterred and punished. Vandalism is a criminal offence, and the courts have powers to impose hefty penalties. Anyone witnessing this offending can report it to the police. The message needs to go out that vandalism is a crime against our community and our heritage. The people of Cheltenham want it stopped.
[Column published in the Glos Echo]