Damien Hirst’s Verity statue approved by North Devon Council
ARTIST Damien Hirst’s controversial statue Verity has been granted planning permission.
Councillors today agreed by 10 votes to two that the 60ft bronze figure of a pregnant woman could be positioned on Ilfracombe pier.
The decision was made by North Devon Council’s planning committee.
It follows two months of public discussion about the statue, which has divided opinion locally.
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The proposal is that statue will be loaned to the council for a 20 year period with a view for this to be extended.
Councillors will meet tomorrow to decide whether to accept the offer now that planning consent has been granted.
North Devon Council received almost 300 letters about the planning application.
The statue is of a pregnant, naked woman wielding a sword with half of her belly exposed to show the foetus inside.
The most recent concern raised surrounds security issues that may come with the statue as police have fears that Verity will attract vandalism and publicity seekers.
However one of two pre-meeting reports stated there has been considerable liaison with local police to ensure that security concerns have been covered and there is also a proposal for CCTV to be permanently installed nearby.
It was recommended in one of the pre-meeting reports that the council give approval to the statue, stating it presents a ‘strong individual character that reaches out to the public.’
It is hoped that the statue, designed by one of the world’s most talked about artists, will bring benefits for the area’s economy in terms of increased visitor numbers leading to a boost in tourism.
After the meeting the council’s executive member for strategic planning and development at Ilfracombe, Councillor Mike Edmunds, said: "I am really excited that Verity will be coming to Ilfracombe. The sculpture has been the subject of a lot of talk in the town over the last few months, which, after all is what artwork is about - being subjective and engaging. So when the sculpture finally gets here, I am confident it will contribute greatly to the town's regeneration, by encouraging more tourists to check out what all the talk's been about and spend time in our lovely town."
Local ward member Councillor Paul Yabsley said: "There has been a lot of controversy around the possibility of the statue coming to Ilfracombe. In fact, controversy is what gives it strength, which will 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. Through projects like this, it will provide opportunities for our young people who want to stay in the area as they are our future."
Local ward member Councillor Paul Crabb, said: "I've always been clear about the need for Ilfracombe's regeneration. Despite the views being split on this statue, I firmly believe that Verity will contribute to its regeneration without question."
The two councillors who voted against the statue were Julie Hunt and Jasmine Chesters. David Worden abstained.
During the meeting some spoke about against the statue.
Ilfracombe Town Councillor Michael Dymond said: “I have been a councillor for 29 years. This is one of the most controversial applications I have seen in all that time. To me this is an insensitive object. It is not a family object and is not in-keeping with Ilfracombe harbour. It is said that it is unique. There is one in Manhattan and there is one in the London Academy but without the sword. Yes it will probably bring people to the area for a few weeks or months but I am sure it will be a 10 minute wonder.”
Barnstaple resident Julia Daunt said: “I went to school in Ilfracombe and I spend many weekends there with friends and my family. I like Ilfracombe the way it is. Yes it can advance into the 21st century but Verity is completely different. Personally for me I find it vile and I would avoid visiting Ilfracombe for that reason.”
Plans currently stand for the statue to be transported into Ilfracombe overnight on October 3/4 and raised into position by October 17/18.