Dave Benson Phillips has been saved, thanks to Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee.
While the man himself may be relieved, if slightly confused, to hear this, the Dave in question is a piece of artwork painted on the door of a listed building by Worthing’s answer to Banksy.
Known only as Horace, the enigmatic artist painted ten of Worthing’s most famous sons and daughters on buildings across the seaside town.
While the works proved to be hugely popular with residents and tourists alike, the council found itself duty bound to investigate after a complaint was made about the mural of Billy Idol on The Egremont pub, in Brighton Road.
The owners of all the buildings gave Horace permission to paint – but the murals of Dave Benson Phillips on the New Amsterdam pub, and Masterchef winner Kenny Tutt in Warwick Street, needed planning permission because they were painted on listed buildings.
Planning officers advised that the owners of the two listed buildings should be given 28 days to remove the paintings or face a Listed Building Enforcement Notice.
But, after a lengthy discussion on Wednesday (May 29), the committee’s decision was to ‘leave them all alone’.
Chairman Paul High (Con, Heene) pointed out that there was a big difference between street art and graffiti and said: “I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s absolutely a tourist attraction for our town.”
Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) agreed, saying the murals enhanced the area.
She added: “They’re a gift to the town for which we haven’t had to pay one penny.”
There were concerns from the Worthing Society about the need to safeguard the town’s listed buildings.
Chairman Susan Belton said: “Our listed buildings contribute to the town’s character, its historic backdrop. It is a unique town in very good order.
“We feel that this has the potential, if it’s not brought under the wing of adequate planning policy to actually spoil how the town is looking.”
Mrs Belton also said some elderly residents in the Selden Road area thought the mural of Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie ‘had connotations of a lady of the night’.
Planning officers were worried that allowing the art to stay would set a ‘dangerous precedent’ for others to do the same.
The committee, however, felt that the murals did not cause any structural change or damage to the listed buildings and even improved the blank door and whitewashed wall on which they were painted.
It was also suggested that Horace’s work was so popular that to remove it would prompt ‘protest’ art and graffiti from others.
When the debate was over, Mr High recommended: “The committee takes the view that it’s not expedient to remove any of the artworks as it does not affect the characters of the buildings, as buildings of special architectural or historic interest – ie leave them all alone.”
The committee agreed unanimously.
Horace said: “Street art is designed to be transient – I’m happy they lasted this long and that the people of Worthing have enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them got painted over.
“I’ll just paint some more.”
There will be an exhibition of Horace’s work at The Yard Gallery, 2 Little High Street, on the weekends of June 15/16, 22/23 and 29/30.
The murals and where to find them:
Billy Idol, The Egremont Public House, Brighton Road
Tank Girl, 20 Bath Place
Gwendoline Christie, Blush, 40 Selden Road
Oscar Wilde, The Corner House, 80 High Street
Kenny Tutt, 28 Warwick Street
Horace Duke, Reginald Ballum Decorative Antiques, Newland Road
Simon Mayo, 50 Heene Road
Royal Blood, Blann & Co Accountants, 111 Broadwater East
Nicolette Sheridan, Broadway Barbers Shop, 9 The Broadway
Horace Duke, Rose & Crown public house, 173 Montague Street
Dave Benson Phillips – New Amsterdam Public House