Iconic Billy Connolly mural under threat by student housing plans

Ambassador Group have launched plans to build 272 flats on Glasgow's Osborne Street - the site of the famous mural.

Iconic Billy Connolly mural by John Byrne on Osborne Street in Glasgow under threat by student housing Getty Images

A giant mural of Sir Billy Connolly in Glasgow City Centre could be removed to make way for student flats.

The 50ft tribute portrait of the ‘Big Yin’ by artist John Byrne was unveiled in Glasgow’s Osborne Street in 2017.

The portrait, which was created alongside two others to celebrate the comedian’s 75th birthday, has since become a tourist attraction and gone on to form part of Glasgow’s mural trail.

However, plans for 272 flats would see the mural covered up.

Three murals based on original portraits by Scottish artists John Byrne, Jack Vettriano and Rachel Maclean were created to mark Billy Connolly's birthday.Getty Images

Ambassador Group want to build flats that are ten storeys high on the site, which has been empty for a several years.

Nova Living, speaking on behalf of the developers, said they looked at ways of retaining the art – but it would not “be possible”.

A spokesperson said: “We looked at ways to retain the mural, regrettably this will not be possible.

“However, we are making a significant commitment to public art.”

Glasgow City Council have pointed to past murals that have been removed due to redevelopment in the city – confirming that the art have always been created to bring “temporary life” to sites.

A spokesman said: “The roots of the City Centre Mural Trail lie back in 2008 – after the financial crash – with the temporary creation of murals on walls at or on sites that either had been stalled development spaces or had lain vacant for some time.

“The purpose of these murals has always been to bring temporary life to these sites before they were redeveloped in the future. Other murals – such as the hip-hop puppets on the wall at the corner of George Street and John Street – have gone as city centre sites have been redeveloped.

“The mural trail is a very popular attraction in Glasgow city centre, and continues to grow with new murals recently installed at George Street and Cathedral Street.”

An objection to the development has been lodged by Merchant City and ­Trongate Community Council.

They said: “Many of Glasgow’s murals, including those paying tribute to Billy Connolly, are major tourist attractions, admired not only by residents but ­visitors from around the world.

“We have long campaigned for the finest of these artistic murals to be protected, including against being wholly or partially obscured by ­developers who fail to fully appreciate their significance. We appeal to Glasgow City Council to join us on this task.”

The local authority is due to decide in the coming weeks on the future of the mural.

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