AN MP has called for an urgent inquiry over the removal of a famous Banksy artwork satirising government surveillance, branding it “absolutely shocking”.
The Spy Booth mural showed three 1950s-style agents, wearing brown trench coats and trilby hats, using devices to tap into conversations at a telephone box.
It appeared overnight in April 2014 on the wall of a house in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, just a few miles from GCHQ where the UK’s surveillance network is based.
But the wall has mysteriously been stripped back to the brickwork, and photos show rubble lying on the ground around the phone box, which was central to the piece.
A video posted on Twitter on Saturday appeared to show the site covered with a tarpaulin and the sound of machinery on masonry.
Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, said the artwork was a valued part of the town’s heritage and questioned why conservation work may have gone wrong.
He said: “This is absolutely shocking news. The Banksy mural is a much admired piece of Cheltenham’s artistic heritage.
“We need an urgent inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened. Whoever is responsible needs to be held to account.’’
He added: “We need answers. Has it definitely been destroyed? If so, who by? How did the conservation effort go so badly wrong? Time for urgent clarification.”
Councillor Steve Jordan, the leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said work had been taking place to repair the plasterwork on the house but he was unaware of the mural being removed.
He added the work had come after the council had issued an enforcement notice which pre-dated the Banksy mural.
He said: “It (the artwork) is protected by a listing. I will have a look at what the situation is, certainly.”
Mark Nelson, built environment enforcement manager at the council, said: “Cheltenham Borough Council is aware of the recent development affecting 159 Fairview Road which includes the Banksy Spy Booth artwork.
“We are currently investigating the situation and are in conversation with the owner.”
The mural had been repeatedly subjected to vandalism since being painted on the Grade II listed Georgian end-of-terrace home which went on the market in January this year for £210,000.
In February 2015 Cheltenham Borough Council granted retrospective planning permission - meaning it cannot be removed without the approval of councillors.