Successful supporters claim approval for the 67 foot Verity is one of the greatest things to happen to ilfracombe.

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THE gigantic statue Verity could be a life-changing landmark for Ilfracombe after North Devon Council gave the green light to Damien Hirst’s controversial sculpture.

The naked 67 foot bronze pregnant figure, with sword aloft, is due to be installed at the Pier on October 17 and 18 after it received planning permission on Wednesday and the executive committee agreed to its 20 year loan on Thursday.

The plan has sparked furious debate, some saying the statue is offensive or inappropriate, but supporters believe it will be a huge boost to the town’s economy and help to put it on the map.

“I think it is the greatest thing to happen to Ilfracombe in modern times and potentially will transform the town,” said Ilfracombe district councillor and planning committee member Paul Yabsley.

“This is very similar to what the artist Barbara Hepworth did for St Ives and I don’t see why it shouldn’t have the same impact. Yes, Damien Hirst is controversial, but so was she.

“Controversy is what gives it strength, which will benefit the town. It will be a catalyst for growth, attracting attention and more visitors.”

Fellow Ilfracombe district councillor Philip Webb said it was very good news and the beginning of transforming the town into an ‘arts trail’ of national importance.

“With the work the Landmark Theatre is doing and Ilfracombe Arts College engaging more and more with the community, added to Verity I think it will attract more artistic people into the town,” he said.

“We have a pretty strong offering now which we want to capitalise on and unlike many things we have talked about before in Ilfracombe, this one will be there on the harbour next month.”

Planning passed 10 votes to two, with one abstention and the executive also saw a majority vote to accept what was hailed as a ‘unique opportunity’ that would enable Ilfracombe ‘to compete on a different level as a tourism destination’.

Ilfracombe Mayor Lynda Courtnadge said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ at the decision: “I this is going to open up a bright new economy for the town and it offers the potential of a brighter future for our young people, who are clearly very much in favour of it.

“I accept it is not to some peoples’ tastes but that is what art is all about. We have to acknowledge the past, but we can’t live in the Victorian age and we have to stamp our own message on the town.”

Groundworks could begin as early as this Sunday and the sculpture itself is to arrive on site around October 3.

Verity itself will be taller than Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North and constructed of a steel frame clad in bronze, with the sword made from fibreglass.

As with other statues created by the artist, one side of the figure depicts skin peeled away to reveal the anatomy underneath, including her unborn child.

Not all are in favour of Verity by any means. Planning committee member Cllr Julie Hunt said she felt the statue was ‘immoral’ and demeaning’, while Cllr Jasmine Chesters also said she believed it was ‘offensive’.

Cllr Mike Dymond, who said he was speaking in his capacity as a town council ward member, said it was one of the most controversial subjects he had seen in 29 years in the town, dividing opinion ‘right down the middle’.

“To me this is an ugly object, it is not a family structure or in keeping with Ilfracombe,” he said.

After the decision he added: “I am disappointed and I think a lot of people in Ilfracombe will be disappointed. I think some of the district councillors made a grave mistake.”

The planning application was submitted by Damien Hirst’s organisation For Giving CIC. Agent Steve Clements said: “Everybody is delighted about it. We are looking forward to the installation and forming part of the regeneration of Ilfracombe.”

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