Making the case for listing street art: study argues for its 'cultural significance'

A study by Bristol University's Law School has argued the case for using the listing regime to protect the work of the well-known British street artist Banksy.

The study was led by John Webster, a postgraduate law student at the University who works as a solicitor at UK law firm Burges Salmon specialising in planning law.

His study, published in the Journal of Planning and Environment Law, considers whether the works of Banksy, given their cultural and financial value, could benefit from the protection of listing.

Webster said: 'It can be argued that his work, due to its political and social statements, carries a cultural significance in modern society. The public has indicated that this needs to be kept and by extension, preserved.

'An application for listing is one of these methods. The effect of listing would also ensure that the work could be preserved for future generations and grants could be applied for to preserve the work.'

Webster argued that support for a listing application for a Banksy like his graffiti on a blank wall overlooking a clinic on Park Street, Bristol, is provided by the precedent of the recent Grade II listing of the Abbey Road Crossing, made famous by its use on an iconic Beatles album cover.

He noted that English Heritage took the view that the asphalt and zebra stripes applied to the road itself were capable of being listed as a structure. Webster suggested that there should be a test-case listing of the Park Street Banksy.

He said: 'It is clear that although the listed building planning system gives the greatest protection, it is not designed for the purpose of preserving graffiti and only by extending case law and policy can any traction be gained. Any action would be a test case.'

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