The battle of Newman Street
The case of Westminster council versus Banksy (The Times, October 24th) raises an interesting legal precedent. Normally permission to paint a wall is only required from a local authority if the building is of listed historic value or the painting is commercial in nature, but now artistic judgement appears to come into it.
Westminster council first sought to remove Banksy's painting 'One nation under CCTV' on Newman street in central London on the grounds it was an unlicensed commercial.
"I was offended when Westminster said my painting was an advertisement. Advertising makes people feel inadequate and worthless. Graffiti doesn't do that. Graffiti doesn't emotionally blackmail you, graffiti doesn't make you feel fat and graffiti doesn't make you rush out and buy things, except maybe high strength cleaning products."
The owner of the property itself is apparently happy for the painting to remain in place so Westminster council has now sought consultation with local residents in order to prove the painting is having a detrimental affect on the area.
Referring to the adjacent Post Office building who have sought the paintings removal since it first appeared Banksy said "I don't know what next door is complaining about their building is so ugly the 'No Trespassing' sign reads like an insult."
All of which leaves the possibility for what is believed to be the first recorded use of the 2003 Anti-social Behaviour act which for the first time gives councils the ability to enter private premises and force the removal of graffiti. A measure introduced by the (blind) MP David Blunkett and which Banksy attacked at the time in a series of paintings and statements.