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Kent's most famous pieces of street art, from Bankseys to the Queen in Whitstable

As you stroll down Whitstable high street, the Queen can be spotted hitching a lift on a hoverboard as she walks her corgis.

It is one of Kent's most iconic pieces of "street art" and has become a landmark in the town.

What's your favourite work of graffiti in Kent? Scroll down to take part in our poll.

Graffiti artist Catman decorated a Whitstable wall with his work
Graffiti artist Catman decorated a Whitstable wall with his work

Few have taken issue with the work by artist Catman and it continues to attract attention from visitors.

In fact, the high street has become a thriving art scene showcasing local talent.

Yet the debate about whether graffiti should be considered art or vandalism has long raged in the county.

For some, it blights the area and some councils have taken a hardline approach to tackling it.

But for others it is considered to be legitimate form of expression and can even help contribute to the local economy by attracting visitors.

Symbol of Brexit, the Banksy Mural in Dover
Symbol of Brexit, the Banksy Mural in Dover

For example, the giant Banksy which appeared overnight in Dover in 2017 was quickly embraced by the people of the town.

The huge mural near the docks depicted a workman removing one of the stars on the European Union flag.

The world's most famous street artist soon confirmed he was responsible and the work was valued at £1 million by expert Banksy collector, John Brandler.

Despite the enormous price tag, some said the real value is in what it would bring to Dover - including the possibility of opening up a street art museum and the increased number of tourists that would stop to see it.

The Banksy mural can no longer be seen on the side of the former amusements
The Banksy mural can no longer be seen on the side of the former amusements

But, to the town's horror, it disappeared last year.

Cllr Edward Biggs (Lab) said it would have continued to bring tourism to the area and many were shocked when it was painted over.

"Everybody in the town really enjoyed it and saw it as a real plus," he said.

"There was a lot of discussion when it was removed and a lot of people were looking at it as part of a heritage trail along with some of the other work in the town.

"I think everyone has been hugely disappointed and can’t understand why it happened.

"There has been quite a lot of redevelopment in Dover but that area has been left empty and looks rather decrepit."

There had been plans for Banksy to revamp the mural too which would have renewed attention to it.

Cllr Biggs said the loss of it was "greatly felt".

"We don’t have much of an issue with graffiti and I think people have changed their minds on it," he said.

"It’s a creative output and if it is done well most people are quite happy with it. I think we are quite tolerant of it."

Brentwood art dealer and Banksy expert John Brandler has said how the piece would have helped regenerate the area.

"Banksy does street art to be in specific places and they add to the interest and culture of the place," the Brandler Galleries owner said.

Banksy expert John Brandler
Banksy expert John Brandler

"Whether you like them or not they at least get a reaction.

"The worst art in the world is a bunch of flowers which you stick on your wall and nobody looks at it. It’s better to have a green circle with an orange triangle, call it modern art and every single person say ‘I don’t like that’ - but at least you’re getting a reaction.

"This is what Banksy is all about."

Mr Brandler said he had plans to bring a street art musuem to Dover - with the Bansky piece as a vocal point.

But these never came to fruition.

"What I find very sad is you have a beautiful high street in Dover, 11.5 million people per year going through there and you don’t give them any reason to stop there," he added.

"You have an amazing cash flow going past your door."

He made comparisons to the success of the Turner Contemporary in Margate which he says has contributed to an increase in visitors and revenue for the town.

Folkestone's Banksy artwork was also loved by its residents.

Art Buff appeared in 2014, depicting a woman wearing headphones peering over a plinth.

Banksy's artwork in Folkestone. Picture: Wayne McCabe
Banksy's artwork in Folkestone. Picture: Wayne McCabe

It was painted on the side of Palace Amusements arcade in Payers Park, owned by the Godden family.

But it was subjected to obscene vandalism and only six weeks later it was removed and sent to America. It went on auction in Miami, with any proceeds planned to go to the charity set up in aid of Jimmy Godden who died in March 2012.

After it failed to sell a legal battle over its ownership saw the painting placed in the hands of the Creative Foundation, now Creative Folkestone, in 2015, who brought it back to the town and placed the valuable work in storage.

In Rochester dozens of red hearts sprung up on walls, pillar boxes, pavements and buildings - which got residents all in a flutter.

Rumours emerged that it could be an early Valentine's message - a romantic gesture from a love-struck partner.

Or perhaps it was a promotion to remind people it was Mother's Day in a few months' time.

Yet there are also times when graffiti clearly is not being used for artistic purposes, with ignorant yobs spraying sickening racist messages.

In March, hateful slogans were painted along the pathway off Heathfield Road in Maidstone - prompting condemnation from anti-racist campaigners and a police investigation.

Meanwhile in Canterbury, a scourge of ugly scrawls has led to the city council taking a hardline approach.

Councillors hiked fines for graffiti vandals last year from £80 to £150 in a bid to deter nuisance taggers from defacing buildings across the district.

The council also offered a £500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of an offender.

Tagging is the act of a person quickly spray painting a nickname or unique mark, usually in a public place.

Watch: Hundreds of graffiti tags removed across Canterbury as part of blitz

It has been linked to criminals, such as gangs, marking territory - although this is not always the case.

Canterbury City Council even has a dedicated graffiti officer.

Cllr Michael Dixey (Lib Dem) said he gets more complaints as a city councillor about tagging than any other single subject.

"We are a World Heritage Site and a lot of our economy is tourist dependent," he said.

Cllr Michael Dixey has concerns about graffiti in Canterbury. Picture: Andy Jones
Cllr Michael Dixey has concerns about graffiti in Canterbury. Picture: Andy Jones

"But you walk up the high street and it is absolutely awful.

"When people come to Canterbury and they see all the graffiti, they are less likely to come back.

"It has got worse and worse."

Other councils have also taken a tough stance.

Private landowners in the Maidstone district who refuse to have graffiti removed from their properties can be fined or prosecuted under proposals announced last year.

The move was approved at a meeting, despite fears it was punishing victims of crime.

The council routinely removes such vandalism in the public realm for free, charging only for graffiti on larger commercial premises, which require specialist equipment.

In a bid to tackle the issue in Canterbury, Cllr Mel Dawkins (Lab) has called for legal walls where artists can spray paint without any repercussions.

"Everybody has a need to express themselves and to deny them that, it’s going to come out one way or another.

Cllr Mel Dawkins represents St Stephen's ward
Cllr Mel Dawkins represents St Stephen's ward

"This can cause problems further down the line which is why we have things like tagging.

"It’s about making people feel they are included in their community."

Cllr Dawkins was in the process of submitting a motion to call for a legal wall in the city before lockdown. But it is yet to be heard.

Catman, known for his pieces in Whitstable, said there is a big contrast between spraying a tag on a wall and going through the preparation of planning a mural.

"The time difference between the two is crazy," he said.

"But some of the best street artists have come from tagging and then started to experiment more.

"Bansky used to tag and do graffiti until he progressed onto street art."

The debate about whether graffiti is art or vandalism is still very much alive.

Many recognise well-planned street pieces, such as the work of Catman, do deserve merit and can be observed for their artistic vigour.

But there still appears to be no easy solution to tackling tagging across the county nor any agreement on the remedy.

Last year, Cllr Dawkins generated controversy after she described graffiti as a form of art and said the only way to solve the problem was to work together.

It will remain a divisive issue which will rage on for many years to come.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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