After Banksy’s Cheltenham mural “Spy Booth” – which appeared last April on a house three miles from the top government listening post GCHQ – was granted listed protection, the Bristol street artist has given his reaction. The mural created international news coverage when it was splattered with white paint, sprayed with silver and defaced with red graffiti. At one point a thief attempted to cut the mural from the wall while the community fought the property owner over ownership of the artwork.
The “unauthorised” mural was added to the Grade II listed property without listed building consent, so could not be included in its listed status. Cheltenham Borough Council voted by 12 votes to one to grant the application. Martin Chandler, borough council case officer, said: “It will be afforded a greater level of protection than it has currently but it doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with future applications to consider other changes to it.” “It [planning consent] doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be retained in situ.”
The council also agreed the mural and a satellite dish incorporated into the design, should be protected as part of the listed building. Meanwhile on the artist’s website, Banksy was asked what he thought about his work gaining the status for the first time.
The artist replied: “It’s surprising because when I did art at school I got an ‘ungraded’.”
A listed building in the UK has special architectural or historic interest and there are around 500,000 in England. The protection afforded the work means it may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority. Banksy’s success has elevated the artist’s work leading to numerous debates regarding its ownership, and attempts to remove and sell the work once it appears in public places.