BANKSY’S artwork in Cheltenham will stay exactly where it is according to campaigners.
Business leaders claim they have the money to buy the mural on a Fairview house and stop it being sold to an American art collector and shipped abroad.
The Save the Banksy group told art lovers last night the mural will stay where it is, thanks to millionaire businessman Hekmat Kaveh.
He told the Echo he will spend “whatever it takes” to keep the work, which depicts three GCHQ spies and has been dubbed the Spy Booth, in Cheltenham.
Painted on a house at the junction of Hewlett Road and Fairview Road, the mural had been the subject of a ‘seven-figure’ bid by an unknown collector in the United States.
David Possee, the owner of the house, wants at least £650,000 for it and the painting, according to Robin Barton, owner of the Bankrobber gallery in London who is brokering the deal to sell the Banksy.
Mr Kaveh said: “Having spoken to many people over the last few weeks, and read many comments on social media, I have concluded there is a very strong feeling about this work.
“It seems that Cheltenham generally is in support of not only retaining the Banksy in town, but in its current location, where it was clearly intended to be.”
He added the funds are subject to receiving support from a number of public bodies, including Gloucestershire Highways and Cheltenham Borough Council, to make the site of the Banksy a museum chronicling the relationship between Cheltenham and GCHQ.
“That project is still of great importance to me and I hope it is a possibility,” he added.
“Whether this is the property immediately behind the Banksy painting, or in another location, will require considerable thought, discussion and consultation with many different bodies, as well as the public.
“I do not feel I’m ready to make any particular commitments to that respect, other than giving my wholehearted support for the scheme to protect Banksy’s artwork.”
Businesswoman Angela De Souza, who is in charge of the Save the Banksy group, said: “I’m sure the whole town will extend their gratitude to Mr Kaveh for stepping in like that to prevent the loss of the artwork.”
Mr Barton said: “It’s still very much the intention of the owners to sell it to the town.
“It is turning into a bit of a nightmare for the owners and they want to sell it soon.”
Cheltenham Borough Council’s 28-day stop notice, which blocked Mr Possee from trying to remove the wall containing the painting, expired yesterday.
But Mike Redman, director of environmental and regulatory services at the council, said that because the house is a Grade II listed building, Mr Possee could face a fine or prison sentence if he carries out the work without listed building consent.
He added: “The owner of the property has not been in communication with the council since the service of the stop notice to discuss his further intentions.”