Banksy artwork given listed status

p25045UK-News-10-1

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

An iconic piece of graffiti artwork by famous artist Banksy has been granted listed status by a council.

The Spy Booth mural depicts three 1950s-style agents, wearing brown trench coats and trilby hats, using devices to tap into conversations at a telephone box.

It appeared overnight on a street in Cheltenham town centre in April last year – just a few miles from where the UK’s surveillance network, GCHQ, is based.

The painting on the side of a Grade II listed Georgian end terrace house has been a source of much controversy over the last year, with people trying to steal the mural, vandals painting over it and business and communities fighting over ownership.

Cheltenham Borough Council’s planning committee tonight approved an application for retrospective listed building consent for the Banksy and accompanying satellite dish on the wall of No 159 Fairview Road.

Councillors were told the application by prominent Cheltenham businessman Hekmat Kaveh did not include the public phone box, which is surrounded by the mural and in theory could be removed.

David Possee, who is the owner of the house, urged councillors to reject the application telling the committee the mural had caused him “significant financial problems”.

“The Banksy was created without permission,” he told the meeting.

“By law that listed building was not just unauthorised, it involved the commission of a criminal offence.

“It has caused me significant financial problems, the building is currently empty, uninhabitable and the damp proofing needs to be carried out on the flank wall.

“Until that is done it will remain as it is. The serious state of disrepair is a current danger to passing members of the public.

“There are only vague assurances from the applicant’s surveyor as to how things will be fixed.”

Mr Kaveh told councillors that he was prepared to meet the costs of any rendering work to the wall of the house.

“Members will be aware of the national and international press interest, as well as the economic benefits to tourism that the Banksy has already brought and will continue to bring to our town,” he said.

“This artwork will only make sense if it stays in Cheltenham.

“The granting of listed building consent will not be the end of my investment of time and financial input but only the beginning.

“I am fully prepared to fund this work and I have agreed to work with council officers to do what is necessary to ensure the long-term protection of Cheltenham’s Banksy.

“I simply ask that you place some faith in the willingness of myself, the business community and residents of Cheltenham to ensure the long-term survival of this special and very important piece of art.”

The application was supported by the Cheltenham Civic Society, describing the Banksy as “witty and has captured the public imagination… reminding people of the presence of GCHQ in the town”.

A total of 28 people had submitted submissions to the committee – 23 in favour of the application and five against.

Councillor Pat Thornton condemned the vandals that attacked the mural in August of last year.

“I am sorry that the owner of the builder doesn’t see this in the same light as we do. I think it is really sad and I am ashamed of the people that have defaced it,” she said.

“For a Banksy to be defaced is absolutely appalling and I don’t think it has happened anywhere else and it had to be Cheltenham people that did it. I really am very ashamed of them.

“It is a shame that this gentleman cannot see the value of what he has on the end of this building and I don’t think it obstructs the use of the building in any way.

“It could be sold and it would probably have a premium if it was sold. I think it is really sad that the gentleman doesn’t realise what he has on the building.”

Councillor Klara Sudbury said the rendering work to the wall should have been carried out long before the Banksy was installed.

“I am extremely disappointed with the work that has been carried out inside the building already,” she said.

“From the photographs I have seen it looks as if it has been mercilessly hacked to pieces, which I think is reprehensible.

“I do worry it will be attacked forever by passers-by. It has been a saga.

“It has been something that has put Cheltenham in a good light, that we don’t take ourselves too seriously and can laugh at what has put us on the map, but it has also shown the town in a poor light as well.”

She added: “This issue is around money and how much it is worth to the person who owns the house.”

Councillors voted by 12-1 to grant the application, which means further permission would be required should any alterations to the property or the Banksy be proposed.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Kaveh said he was “absolutely delighted” with the committee’s decision.

“We will be talking to the owner of the house as clearly there is a dispute between us,” he said.

“I believe from the information I have and the legal advice I have been given is that the boundary wall which the Banksy is on does not belong to the 159 Fairview Road, it was the boundary wall of the house that was demolished a few years ago.

“I have already offered to pay for the work to the rendering. If he refuses the officers will take enforcement action.”

Mr Kaveh said he would be discussing how to protect the Banksy for the future and that could involve some sort of glass covering.

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search