Not all of a Brexit-themed Banksy can be saved following the demolition of the building it appeared on, council bosses have revealed.
Speculation has surrounded the future of the famous mural in Dover that had been placed on the side of the ex-Castle Amusements in Bench Street.
Dover District Council has now flattened the building to make way for a new £25m regeneration project, sparking more fears for the future of the piece.
But DDC leader Cllr Kevin Mills (Lab) says “bits” of the work, which was mysteriously whitewashed overnight in 2019, have been saved.
The mural appeared in May 2017 – a year after Britain narrowly voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.
The departure was symbolised by the image of a workman on a ladder chipping away one of the stars of the EU flag.
Cllr Mills says the image of the man on a ladder and the yellow stars he is working on has been saved but not the wider blue background.
He claims the difficulty was that the image was on the render of the building, which was knocked down by DDS Demolition.
Cllr Mills said. “We are working with the company (DDS Demolition) to identify what can and can't be done with the bits that they’ve taken away. The whole thing can’t be saved anyway.
"It was a very old building. We were told very early on that in essence what could possibly be saved would be the yellow stars and the stencil of the man on the stepladder, some of which had already been, I understand, stolen or destroyed. But the blue was not able to be saved.
“So we are actually dealing with the construction company now, we’ve been in consultation and discussions with them from the start about what has and hasn’t been taken away and I’m waiting for feedback on that.
“Of course they will not even start to try and do anything with it in the short term.”
Cllr Mills says it is still not known who painted over the mural, which was said to be valued at £1m.
“We’ve got digital photographs so it’s possible to duplicate something,” he said.
“What we need to see is what can or can’t be saved. This has been painted onto render, which is fairly old so when you take it down does that render stay? Anyone who has done home improvements knows the difficulty about that.
“The bottom line is we didn’t paint over it. We didn’t try to destroy it, somebody else did that and we don’t know who.
“What we’ve made sure is the council taxpayer isn’t given a bill to try to maintain something we might not even be able to maintain or even salvage to some extent.”
Cll Mills was speaking at a public consultation exhibition focusing on the ‘Dover Beacon’ project, held at the East Kent College Dover campus.
This scheme aims to create a cultural, educational and business start-up centre in Bench Street.
It replaces Bench Street car park and premises such as the Funky Monkey nightclub.
The four-storey building with the Banksy mural, at No11 Bench Street, was completely knocked down this month as part of a wider redevelopment of Bench Street by DDC.
The combined regeneration, including ‘Dover Beacon’, is costed at £25.4 million.
The exhibition attracted a steady stream of local people including David de Min who is leading a separate project to regenerate the Citadel fort, just a short drive away on Dover Western Heights.
Mr de Min, chief executive of Dover Citadel Ltd, believes projects like his and the Bench Street one combine to improve Dover overall.
“This is Dover as a whole and all ships rise on the tide,” he said.
“Everything will work together and this will synergise with what we are doing and even more encourage people to come into town and up on to the Western Heights.
“Once we start opening up our site the two will work together.
“I’ve always said Dover is a sleeping giant and now we see those buildings come down and the rise from the ashes of a new project.
“This is one of the last seaside towns that hasn’t been developed in the south coast. This is the entrance, the shop front to the UK, the closest point to Calais.
“This investment will encourage more people to come to Dover. “
Liz Gibney, from the new building’s architects Lee Evans Partnership, says the scheme is for “the whole of the Dover district”.
“We are hoping this is going to raise aspirations for people in Dover, bring more creative people here and keep them in the district,” she said.
On DDC’s website, the authority says it is in discussions with DDS Demolition “as to how any elements of the conserved Banksy could be put on display locally”.
It adds the contractor “is meeting all additional costs and risks that they incur in attempting to recover the Banksy”.