Verity's invite to big party
DAMIEN Hirst's Verity statue has been praised for attracting more than 5,000 extra visitors to Ilfracombe in the past month, the Journal can reveal.
Figures released by North Devon Council show a dramatic rise in the number of people using car parks in Ilfracombe since Verity arrived last month.
The increased visitor numbers have also resulted in an extra £8,000 in parking revenue.
Between October 7 and November 7 this year more than 22,000 parking tickets were purchased at car parks throughout the town.
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The majority were purchased at the Pier, Cove and Larkstone Lane.
During the same period last year 16,792 tickets were purchased. In 2010 the figure was even less at 15,995.
Last month the Journal reported that businesses around the pier had been inundated with customers who had come to visit the sculpture. One restaurant, Chimes on St James' Place, even had to turn away customers after running out of food.
Councillor Mike Edmunds, North Devon Council's Executive Member for Strategic Planning Development and Ilfracombe ward member, said it was good to back up this opinion with statistics.
He said: "These parking figures suggest there has been a significant increase in visitors to the town this month, and this can only be due to Verity. Everyone's noticed there have been more people about and at times the town has been positively buzzing.
"More than 22,000 parking tickets have been sold over the last month, which is 5,000 more than this period last year.
"The pier car park has had over 8,500 uses, which is 2,500 more than last year, indicating that traffic has been going down Wilder Road and into the town.
"These figures prove that Verity is already having a positive effect on the town's economy and I'm sure this will continue over the coming months.
"It's fantastic to see Ilfracombe getting the boost it needs."
Meanwhile a select group of councillors, officers and volunteers have been working hard to organise a Party On The Pier event to celebrate the switching on of Verity's lights on Friday, November 23.
The event, which will feature entertainment from Heart FM, will run from 6 to 8pm.
Local businesses have also donated more than £1,000 for a fireworks display.
However, organisers were criticised this week after a Barnstaple catering van from The Lush Food Company was booked to cater the event.
Many residents felt this would take trade away from food businesses on the pier and a debate on Ilfracombe Town Council's Facebook page attracted more than 250 comments.
Ilfracombe resident John Mackenzie, who initially raised the point, said: "One of the reasons Verity was given permission was to enhance local trade. Who gave permission for a Barnstaple company to bring in mobile catering to take away trade from our own businesses? Yet again Ilfracombe is getting shafted by Barnstaple."
As a result of the outcry, the Lush Food Company was cancelled by organisers, prompting an angry response from the firm's owner, Jason Clark, who described those opposed as small-minded and backwards.
There will now be no catering at the event, though businesses on the quay will be open on the night.
The pier car park will be closed for the event and visitors are asked to use alternative car parks at Larkstone and Hillsborough.