Hartlepool Borough Council has pledged its support to the efforts of historians to return a statue commemorating the Boer War to a town park.
The History of Hartlepool Group is spearheading plans to replace the statue in Ward Jackson Park almost 50 years after it was stolen.
The council’s Regeneration Services Committee offered its backing of the project when it considered a request from the history group at the council meeting on Friday.
Brian Coward, 82, of the Hartlepool branch of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Association, said: “This town has been stripped of its hospital, bus services, shopping centre sold.
“Let’s get it back. We deserve it, the people deserve it. Let us and let you try to get this statue back.”
Mr Coward added: “If this was Newcastle, or Sunderland or Middlesbrough and especially in the south, we wouldn’t be standing here because that statue would have been put back a long time ago.”
The original bronze figure of a Boer War soldier was stolen from the park in 1968, leaving only a trace of its boots.
It had been a feature of the park since its unveiling in July 1905.
The Grade II-listed granite plinth, which lists the 320 men from the Hartlepool area who fought in the conflict and the 23 who died in battle, is all that remains.
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, told the meeting the history group has indicated it could raise £25,000 for a replacement statue.
It would be made by North East artist Ray Lonsdale, who designed the Tommy statue of a First World War soldier at Seaham.
It is proposed to make the new Boer War statue out of lower-value bronze-plated metal to deter thieves from trying to steal it again.
Other possible options are to create a full-size statue measuring 6ft 2in using state-of-the-art 3D printing.
A third and most expensive option, costing up to £70,000, is to create an exact replica using the original maquette from the Museum of Hartlepool’s collection.
The council is not being asked to contribute to the cost of the statue or its maintenance.
Councillor Jim Lindridge said: “I think it’s important we commemorate our war heroes.
“My grandfather fought in the Boer War and was discharged in 1900 with shell shock. It would be nice to see the statue replaced.”
The idea received the unanimous backing of the committee.
Coun Kevin Cranney, chair of the committee, said: “The decision of the committee is to support you in your endeavours and reconstruction of a new statue.”
The work would need planning permission from the council and listed building consent.
The council recommended the history group talks to Historic England to explore all the options to progress the scheme.