PLANS are being drawn up to replace a Basildon water feature worth half a million pounds, which is believed to have been stolen.
The “pineapple” water feature, which used to stand outside Trafford House, in Station Way, has not been seen since December 2012.
There are fears the one-off sculpture, handmade by artist William Mitchell, might have been sold for scrap.
It was last known to be stored at the Laindon Centre when developer Colonnade, which once owned both Trafford House and the Laindon Centre, moved the sculpture in 2011 while it made plans to turn Trafford House into housing.
Colonnade reported it missing in December 2012, but Basildon Council has only now admitted it was taken.
Agent Montague Evans wrote to Basildon Council saying: “Unfortunately, as you know, the restoration and retention of the pineapple water feature is not possible due to theft.
“Although regrettable, this provides an opportunity to create a new feature to complement the rebirth of the building.
“In pre-application discussions, planning officers have agreed to this approach.”
Vin Harrop, of Rosslyn Road, Billericay, lobbied Basildon Council to secure the future of the pineapple when councillors gave planning permission to turn Trafford House into flats.
He said: “I don’t think they will spend the amount of time and money to create something as good. This piece is priceless. I have kept in contact with the artist and his wife writes to me every year asking whether it is safe. He will be furious to hear this.
“When speaking to William, he said if he was asked to recreate and install it today it would cost him half a million pounds.
“It was handmade. Each spike had to be hand cut, it is made out of special Swedish metal and it had a mechanism to pump the water. It took him many months to make.
He added: “I don’t believe it’s been stolen, but I need proof. I really hope it hasn’t been sold for scrap.”
The feature used to stand eight to ten feet above ground, but when taken out of the ground, the whole piece was about 20ft long.
A Basildon Council spokesman said: “Although the loss of the feature is regrettable, there’s no action the council could have taken as it was removed prior to the imposition of the planning condition it be restored.
“As it now stands, the authority will be seeking a piece providing suitable impact to the development.”