Sav­ing lat­est town spy Taxi firm bids to keep street art

Gloucestershire Echo - - IN BRIEF - Sa­muel PORT sa­[email protected]­

AMURAL de­pict­ing a spy hail­ing a taxi on the side of a build­ing has been saved. The mu­ral was un­der threat due to the de­pic­tion of the spy hold­ing a Greggs shop­ping bag and the word ‘Taxi’ in a speech bub­ble as these were ear­marked by Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil as be­ing ad­ver­tise­ments, which would need permission to stay there.

The Royal Well Place build­ing is owned by Star­line Taxis Chel­tenham. street artist John D’oh sten­ciled the art­work in the dead of night last November, much to the sur­prise of the taxi firm.

Due to fierce pub­lic de­mand af­ter a post sur­faced on Star­line’s Twit­ter page about the mu­ral’s im­mi­nent re­moval, the taxi com­pany have re­versed their de­ci­sion to paint over it.

Af­ter the mu­ral went up last November, the coun­cil re­quested that the own­ers of the build­ing - Star­line com­pany di­rec­tors Rob Bates and Leon

Jack­son - ap­ply for ret­ro­spec­tive plan­ning permission to re­tain the mu­ral.

Star­line’s Mr Bates ini­tially saw the art­work as “a prob­lem” and “didn’t like it at first” so he made plans to have it painted over rather than ap­ply for plan­ning permission.

He said: “It was some­thing that the coun­cil were im­me­di­ately on my case about get­ting it re­moved and it sud­denly be­came a prob­lem, hav­ing this art­work put on the side of the build­ing - which we didn’t ask for - so this be­came a prob­lem which caused us an is­sue.”

How­ever, the coun­cil have stated that they never pushed for the art­work to be re­moved.

A spokeswoma­n for Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil, said: “Our ini­tial con­ver­sa­tions with the owner took place around Christ­mas-time when the art­work/ad­ver­tise­ment first ap­peared; the owner told the coun­cil that he would have the art­work/ad­ver­tise­ment re­moved, and that he was in­dif­fer­ent about keep­ing or removing it.”

Since post­ing on Twit­ter that mu­ral would be re­moved, Mr Bates said “the out­cry has been quite dra­matic”.

He went on to say: “I con­tacted the coun­cil to say that I am not hav­ing it re­moved and I asked them, what’s the next thing to do?”

He said that they gave him two op­tions, to paint out the words ‘Taxi’ and the Greggs bag or ap­ply for plan­ning permission.

He said that he went for the lat­ter op­tion to not change the art­work as “I don’t re­ally want to do that, it’s some­one else’s art­work - I don’t think we have the right to change it”.

The 51-year-old com­pany di­rec­tor said: “I didn’t re­alise the amount of people that en­joy it so we’ll put the ap­pli­ca­tion in and take it from there.”

He added that the Star­line firm had grown fond of the mu­ral as time went by and “we would miss it”.

The mu­ral is a pas­tiche of Banksy’s fa­mous 2014 Spy Booth.

“I did it for a bit of fun and hu­mour,” said Mr D’oh, who like Banksy is based in Bris­tol.

“The people of Chel­tenham are now fa­mil­iar with the long gone char­ac­ters from Banksy’s 2014 Spy Booth, so it was nice to recre­ate a bit of the iconic im­age for nos­tal­gia.”

“It was painted on the side of Star­line Taxis hence why he is hail­ing a taxi.

“The Greggs bag is re­fer­ring a store that has opened in­side the new GCHQ build­ing and the fourth to open in Chel­tenham I be­lieve.”

How­ever, Star­line’s Mr Bates who has spo­ken to the artist says that the art­work goes deeper than that and it is ac­tu­ally de­pict­ing an ac­tual spy who was work­ing at Chel­tenham’s GCHQ.

I didn’t re­alise the amount of people that en­joy it

Rob Bates

The de­sign on the Star­line Taxis of­fice

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