The Belly of the South or The Angel of the West?
A 20-METRE statue of a sword-wielding, pregnant woman by artist Damien Hirst could be sited on Ilfracombe Pier by the end of the year if a planning application is successful.
The artist, who lives near Combe Martin and also has plans to build an eco-housing development in the south of the town, believes the statue will help regenerate Ilfracombe's tourist industry.
In December last year the Journal reported that Hirst, 47, who is the world's richest living artist, was considering donating a large statue to Ilfracombe Pier – and this week he has done just that.
Plans to erect the 67-foot high figure named Verity were submitted to North Devon Council last Friday.
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The bronze-clad statue, which has been offered on loan to the council for 20 years, depicts a pregnant woman with layers of skin and flesh removed from one side to expose a fœtus, muscle layers and a skull underneath. The statue holds a sword in one hand, scales in the other and stands on top of two bronze law books. It is believed the books were added in order to elevate the statue 10 inches higher than Anthony Gormley's Angel Of The North.
Hirst says the statue represents "a monumental modern allegory of Truth and Justice".
The statue, which would be less than 100 metres from Hirst's 11 The Quay restaurant, would be fixed to a reinforced concrete pad near the old pier extension.
The planning application has been submitted by a group called For Giving CIC, a Community Interest Company founded by a charity called Victim.
The statue has divided opinion in the Ilfracombe. Some believe it will boost tourism and regenerate the town while others say it is unattractive, irrelevant and would be out of place.
Some residents have dubbed the statue the Angel Of The West.
However, others have described it as the Belly Of The South and claimed its image is inappropriate given that the town has previously been identified as a teenage pregnancy hotspot.
District Councillor Philip Webb, chairman of the town's marketing group, said: "This amazing sculpture will attract thousands of tourists to Ilfracombe and will be great for the economy and will further strengthen the regeneration of the town.
"We know there will be some opposition and those who wish to link the statue to teenage pregnancy in the town, but these will be the same people who complain there are not enough jobs in Ilfracombe.
"I am more concerned with the regeneration of the town and boosting its economy and job opportunities than listening to people's personal preferences. This is great news for Ilfracombe."
Dawn Williams, landlady of the Pier Tavern pub, said it was a controversial choice.
She said: "Personally I'm not keen, I would have picked something else.
"However, I can see the benefits for tourism and if it helps boost my business then it's alright by me."
Francis Kelly, Historic Buildings Inspector for English Heritage, said the organisation had no problem with the statue.
He said: "This sounds like an important and thought-provoking project that would add a considerable amount of interest to Ilfracombe."
District councillor Mike Edmunds, Executive Member for Strategic Planning and Development at Ilfracombe, said: "We've got to find new ways of attracting visitors.
"We are lucky to have an artist of Damien's stature in the area and we want to start rebranding the town in the area of the arts rather than as just a traditional seaside resort.
"The application will be considered as part of our usual planning process.
"There will be opportunities for members of the public to comment on the application during the public consultation period. They can do this either online, by email or by post, before July 26."
It is hoped the application will be heard by North Devon Council's planning committee on September 5.
A spokesman for Damien Hirst said: "As this is still in the early stages of planning submission, we cannot comment any further."
You can view the plans on North Devon Council's planning tracker by searching for application number 54294 at www.northdevon.gov.uk/planning.
Hard copies of the plans can also be viewed at The Ilfracombe Centre in Ilfracombe.
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