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Calls for council to seize Banksy building in Dover and turn it into art gallery to rival Turner Contemporary

PUBLISHED: 16:43 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:28 26 July 2017

Banksy artwork in Dover. Photo: Ady Kerry

Banksy artwork in Dover. Photo: Ady Kerry

Ady Kerry

A petition has been launched by Labour councillor Nathaniel Richards

Calls are growing for Dover District Council to seize the building which is home to a piece by coveted street artist Banksy and transform the site into an art gallery capable of rivalling Margate’s Turner Contemporary.

Labour councillor, Nathaniel Richards, this week launched a petition urging the town hall to use compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers in order to safeguard the future of the former Castle Amusements building, which is due to be demolished.

Property owners the Godden family, which also owned the building upon which Banksy daubed his previous Kent work - Art Buff in Folkestone - said the piece, which depicts a workman on a ladder chipping away at one of the 12 stars on the European Union flag, is likely to be removed and sold, and that they were looking at options with a London art gallery.

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee urged chiefs to explore available options to protect the piece “as a matter of urgency” but Cllr Richards wants to see them go one further and turn it into a comprehensive tourist attraction.

He told us: “We are potentially missing a very good opportunity to take advantage of something unique that has been gifted to Dover.

“It’s going to draw a hell of a lot of tourists and its positioning is perfect – it’s the first thing you see when you come off the motorway.

“Look at what’s happened in Margate, the Turner Contemporary has helped the town come on a lot in the last five years or so.

“We don’t have anything arty of any sort in Dover, so it would make sense to get tourists in and use the building as an art gallery.”

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke has led a campaign to protect the artwork and has written to Historic England asking for the piece to be listed.

His proposals will shortly be sent to the Department for Culture, Media and Science for consideration and he also last week asked arts minister John Glen for help in maintaining the mural.

However, the Conservative is understood to be concerned about the cost of launching a CPO, fearing the burden would fall on the shoulders of the taxpayer.

“It’s great to see Nathaniel backing our campaign to save the Dover Banksy,” he said.

“Yet if Dover District Council were to issue a CPO it would be very expensive and the burden would fall on the taxpayer.

“The best way forward is to get the building listed to protect it for the people of Dover and generations to come.

“Historic England are currently considering the case and I’ve also raised the issue with the arts minister John Glen who will make the final decision.

“I’ve also met with Dover District Council officers today and urged them to support the bid.”

Cllr Richards said: “The council has the money sitting there to compulsorily purchase the building – I would not be going near this if there wasn’t the funds available.

“The cost would be a drop in the ocean compared to what would be made in tourism – there’s not many locations on the earth that have a Banksy.

“With massive development in the town, it would be a crying shame to not take advantage.

“A lot of people may not consider it art but there are millions who would pay good money to come and see it.”

Those wishing to view the petition can do so here.

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