A Banksy mural painted on the side of a garage in a Welsh steel town could be removed and relocated for protection by authorities.

Thousands of people have flocked to Taibach, in Port Talbot, to see the artwork, which appeared mysteriously on the side of the privately owned building just before Christmas.

Screens and wardens have been in place for security and to manage crowds, with Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, who grew up in the adjoining village of Baglan, contributing towards the cost.

Neath Port Talbot Council has now released a statement saying that leaving the graffiti art where it is is not practical and that its priority is to preserve and protect the work by the world-famous anonymous artist.

Garage owner Ian Lewis initially turned down an invitation to discuss preserving the painting, officials said, but he has now said this was a misunderstanding on my part.

The council’s statement, released on Tuesday, said: The council yesterday offered the property owner the opportunity to loan the Banksy to the people of Neath Port Talbot on a permanent basis.

The council would remove, store and relocate it at a location to be decided following a public consultation.

We have proposed to meet the cost in full – including a like-for-like replacement garage, but Mr Lewis has refused the offer of a meeting to discuss the matter further.

The council said the future of the artwork and its impact on surrounding residents lies solely with the garage owner.

It is our understanding that he wishes to pursue other options, as is of course his right, but our doors remain open should he change his mind, it said.

The painting is believed to be a statement on the industrial town of Port Talbot, its steel works, and the pollution it creates.

Banksy revealed he was the artist behind the mural in an Instagram video entitled Season’s Greetings.

On Tuesday, Mr Lewis, 55, said his refusal to meet council officials had been a misunderstanding on my part.

Asked for his reaction to the council’s offer, he said: I’d rather not say.

He previously admitted struggling with the attention, saying: It started off as fun, but now it’s gone to stress…

I’ve never experienced anything like this. My phone is ringing, on my house phone there’s 1,000 messages.

The Port Talbot mural was not the first time Banksy made headlines last year, coming just a few months after the now world-famous shredding stunt.

Girl With Balloon, one of the street artist’s most iconic images, self-destructed just moments after selling to a buyer for more than £1 million, thanks to a secret shredder installed inside the frame.

(c) Sky News 2019: Banksy mural on Port Talbot garage could be moved for protection