A bronze memorial to comedy legend Tommy Cooper is to be put up in Eastbourne, his favourite seaside town.

A statue of the late entertainer will go up opposite the Devonshire Park Theatre, where he used to have audiences in stitches.

Before his death in 1984, when he collapsed during a live TV variety show, Tommy had been a familiar sight in Eastbourne for decades.

He had bought a holiday home near Motcombe Park with his wife Gwen, who was born in the town.

The proposal to site the statue opposite the theatre was put forward last night by Liberal Democrat councillor Gary Potter, who knew the fez-wearing star as a child.

He said: "There was a time when I was a kid riding my cow-horned handlebars when Tommy shouted out to me, 'Can I have a go'.

"He was a great big bloke, about 6ft 5in, and he was just fantastic."

Coun Potter hit upon the idea of a lasting tribute to the funnyman after visiting the memorial to Eric Morecambe in Morecambe, but it will not be funded from the public purse.

He and Tommy's niece Sabrina Light have set up a Tommy Cooper Memorial Fund.

Coun Potter said: "People were coming up to me and asking me to take pictures for them in front of it and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to have something like that in Eastbourne', so it went from there."

The statue is being designed by Eastbourne artist Tracy Wisniewski and will show with Tommy striking a typical pose, wearing his trademark fez.

Tommy's niece Sabrina, who runs Cooper's Magic Shop in Cornfield Road, Eastbourne, said: "It's going to look wonderful and all of the family are delighted that it's going ahead, particularly outside the Devonshire Park Theatre which he loved."