He has gone into local history as "the man who made Kingston", writes June Sampson.

But that hasn't stopped Leonard Bentall's memorial statue being taken from its prominent place in the Royal borough and transferred to a warehouse in Farnborough.

Now the fight is on to get him back.

The life-size bronze figure was sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick and unveiled in 1944, two years after Bentall's death.

For several decades it was a familiar figure above the Wood Street entrance to the Bentalls department store.

After the store was rebuilt in the 1990s, it was moved to the new Bentall Centre, where it gazed out from a prime position outside the Bentall store entrance on the first floor.

But now it has gone.

Edward Bentall, Leonard's grandson, and the chairman of Bentalls until the firm was sold, explained that Fenwicks, the new owner, had moved the statue because it felt it affected the sight lines into the store.

"I feel very sad about it, but Kingston's conservative leader, Kevin Davis, is trying to get it back," he said.

He added his father, Rowan, had the statue moved from its original niche in Wood Street because he felt Leonard would not have liked looking at the new John Lewis store immediately opposite.

Councillor Davis said he was alerted to the statue's disappearance in a call from a stressed local resident.

"I promised to do everything I could to get it back," he said.

"Not only did Leonard Bentall do more then anyone to make Kingston a major shopping centre, but the town is short of good sculpture."

He added Fenwicks' idea of handing the statue to Kingston Museum would not work because the building was too small.

"One option is to restore it to its former place above Wood Street. Another is to place it on a plinth near to where Bentalls first started in Clarence Street," he said.

"But who will pay for the work? That's a big question. It's unthinkable such a major figure should be lost to us."