One foot on the pier for Damien Hirst statue
15:50 05 September 2012
Planners give 67 foot Verity the thumbs up as controversial application steps over the first hurdle before going on display in Ilfracombe.
"We all know art is subjective - some will like it, some not, as with Verity. We need to look beyond our personal preferences."
DAMIEN Hirst’s statue Verity has one foot on Ilfracombe Pier after planning permission was granted today (Wednesday).
Members of North Devon Council’s planning committee voted 10 in favour and two against the artist’s offer to loan the 67 foot bronze figure to the council for 20 years.
She is not quite through the door yet and tomorrow (Thursday) the council’s executive committee will be asked to accept the loan and agree to shoulder some of the ongoing maintenance and security costs.
Approximately 20 people were still present at today’s planning meeting for the Verity application and 12 people spoke, with a fairly even split of views that reflected the debate which has been raging in Ilfracombe since the proposal was revealed.
"To me this is an ugly object, it is not a family structure or in keeping with Ilfracombe."
A total of 180 letters in favour, 109 against and 30 of comment had been received by planners since the application was lodged.
Verity – from the Latin for truth - is a bronze naked pregnant woman holding aloft a sword and bearing scales, mounted on a plinth of legal books. In the style of several of Mr Hirst’s statues, the figure has half of her belly exposed to show the foetus inside.
Speaking on behalf of Ilfracombe Town Council, Councillor Philip Webb argued in support of the statue and the economic benefits supporters say it will bring.
“We all know art is subjective - some will like it, some not, as with Verity. We need to look beyond our personal preferences,” he said.
"It will be a catalyst for growth, attracting attention and more visitors in the same way art has contributed to St Ives."
“I and my colleagues believe this is an important step in the regeneration of Ilfracombe, which will encourage more tourists to visit and spend money.
“This is a great opportunity and one we must grab.”
But Councillor 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.
“I am sure it will be a 10 minute wonder. It might bring people in to the town for two weeks, two months or 12 months, but eventually the novelty will wear off.”
Planning committee members Julie Hunt and Jasmine Chesters both said they felt the statue was offensive, but the majority were in favour.
Local ward member Cllr Paul Yabsley said it was the statue’s controversy which gave it the strength to benefit the town:
“It will be a catalyst for growth, attracting attention and more visitors in the same way art has contributed to St Ives, he said.
“Through projects like this, it will provide opportunities for our young people who want to stay in the area as they are our future.”
If given the go ahead, groundwork is planned to start on site later this month, with Verity due to arrive at the beginning of October. It is then expected the sculpture will be erected around October 17 and 18, ready for unveiling towards the end of the month.
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