Leeds councillor warns 'explosion' in tagging by vandals in Headingley and Hyde Park is taking toll on residents

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Tagging by vandals has “exploded” in two Leeds suburbs, with worn-down locals saying it is “blighting” their community.

The practice, which involves leaving a signature or personal mark of some kind on walls or street furniture, is drawing rising complaints across the city. But Headingley and Hyde Park has become a “destination” for people coming from outside the area to ruin property with graffiti, according to those affected.

The suburb’s new Labour councillor said the problem was so chronic that it was affecting the “mental wellbeing” of residents as he called for a review of the city council’s response to the issue. Community organisation The Headingley Development Trust is trying to tackle it, with volunteers cleaning up graffiti as much as they can. In the past, clean-up kits have also been handed out to local businesses who have been targeted.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One of the group’s directors, Alan Beswick, said it was increasingly difficult to keep on top of the vandalism. “It’s been a problem probably for the last six or seven years,” Mr Beswick said. “It’s grown considerably to the point that we’re almost the tagging destination of choice in Leeds, and possibly even further afield. We’ve got people coming on trains to come into Headingley and Hyde Park to do it. Now it’s absolutely exploded. The issue with tagging is once it starts, unless you get rid of immediately, it spreads and it becomes the norm.”

Pictures taken by Headingley Development Trust capture the scale of the issue - and the work that's needed to clear away the graffiti.Pictures taken by Headingley Development Trust capture the scale of the issue - and the work that's needed to clear away the graffiti.
Pictures taken by Headingley Development Trust capture the scale of the issue - and the work that's needed to clear away the graffiti.

Headingley’s transient student community means much of the local housing stock is rented, a factor Mr Beswick says makes it harder to eradicate tagging. Volunteers are unable to clean up graffiti on a residential home without the owner’s permission, he said. Gaining that can be a lengthy and convoluted process.

“We’ve got a lot of landlords,” Mr Beswick said. “A lot of landlords just don’t, relatively speaking, have remotely the same level of concern about their property being tagged than people who live in their own houses. Trying to track down who owns the house so you can clean the wall is considerably difficult. That can take weeks and weeks and weeks.

“The second factor I think is that there’s a lot of young people. I’m not saying that it’s young people doing the tagging – actually a lot of the evidence suggests it’s older blokes that are responsible. But as they walk around the area, they’re not as concerned about tagging [as permanent residents].”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dwindling public resources have not helped either, with police unlikely to track down the perpetrators unless they’re caught in the act, Mr Beswick said.

Tagging was raised at the latest meeting of Leeds City Council’s environment and housing scrutiny board. Coun Abdul Hannan, who now represents Headingley and Hyde Park, called for the local authority’s anti-graffiti strategy to be reviewed in order to see if more could be done. Councillors from areas as diverse as Farnley and Wortley, Cross Gates and Whinmoor, Pudsey, Kirkstall, and Wetherby complained that their areas were being ravaged by graffiti too.

Coun Hannan said: “Unfortunately Headingley and Hyde Park seems to be the place where [taggers] think it’s appropriate to go. People are coming from all directions to come and spoil the community. It’s putting a blight on the neighbourhood and it’s as if it’s the norm. I have a lot of local residents who are being affected by it mentally now. It’s affecting their wellbeing. It’s not getting any better, it’s just getting worse.”