Banksy’s comment on UK’s spy network protected for future

The Banksy mural was vandalised last summer.''Photo: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire
The Banksy mural was vandalised last summer.''Photo: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire
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A PIECE of street art commenting on Government surveillance by the mysterious artist Banksy will be protected for the future after planners granted retrospective permission.

Spy Booth depicts three 1950s-style agents, wearing brown trench coats and trilby hats, using devices to tap into conversations at a telephone box. It appeared in a Cheltenham street in April last year, just a few miles from where the UK’s surveillance network, GCHQ, is based.

It has been the source of much controversy since, with people trying to steal the mural, vandals painting over it and business and communities fighting over ownership.

But now it cannot be removed without the approval of councillors, after Cheltenham Borough Council’s planning committee approved an application for retrospective listed building consent for the work and accompanying satellite dish on the wall of No 159 Fairview Road, the Grade-II listed Georgian end terrace house on which it stands.

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. He said the mural had caused him “significant financial problems” and that the wall itself was in need of repair.

Mr Kaveh told councillors that he was prepared to meet the costs of any rendering work “to ensure the long-term protection of Cheltenham’s Banksy.”

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”.