Elizabeth Landmark developers to appeal after 180ft landmark plans for Northumberland refused
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The application, for the 56-metre steel sculpture on the summit of Cold Law, west of Kirkwhelpington, had been recommended for approval by council planners, both at this meeting and the previous one in June when members opted to go for a site visit.
And seeing the area, alongside the increasing public pressure – with scores of extra objections lodged and a protest group on Facebook attracting more than 500 members in the past few weeks – seemed to sway the committee that this was an inappropriate location for a structure of this kind.
The planning application was was rejected by 13 votes to three at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on July 2.
‘Local people have it right’
Coun Ian Swithenbank said that upon seeing one particular view during the visit, ‘I said to myself, no, no, no, local people have it right on this one’.
Reference had been made to the larger wind turbines already in the area, but Coun Jeff Reid said: “Those windmills are going to come to the end of their life and they are going to come down.
“If you build that there, we are going to be long dead and it’s still going to be there. It’s marking the landscape in an inappropriate way.”
Coun Trevor Thorne, who moved approval the first time round, said he still supported the scheme, but Coun Barry Flux, who proposed refusal, concluded: “The Wannies are wild, let’s keep it that way.”
The idea for the £1million monument, a tribute to the Queen and the Commonwealth, was first revealed last May by the owner of the Ray estate, Lord Devonport, with the design – Ascendant, by Simon Hitchens – selected from a choice of three last August.
It is described as ‘a thin slice cut north to south through the uppermost bedrock of Cold Law, tilted and elevated at the north end so that it points to the sun at its zenith on Midsummer’s Day’.
The aim is to provide a new cultural tourism destination, with a viewing area, small car park and pathways accessible to walkers and cyclists as well as motorists.
There would be no toilets, visitor centre or amenities, but signage would direct visitors to facilities, including pubs and shops, in Ridsdale, West Woodburn, Sweet Hope Loughs, Knowesgate and Kirkwhelpington.
‘Keep the Wannies Wild’
Representatives of the applicant had raised a number of points at the meeting such as how the landmark could benefit tourism, providing a link between other destinations, how it will not affect the openness of the landscape, and how other much-loved public artworks in the region – like the Angel of the North – were unpopular when first proposed.
But Emma Anderson, from the opposition group Keep the Wannies Wild, said: “This particular design in this particular location has caused a great deal of il feeling. Local people will never grow to love or be proud of this monument.
“This is desecration promoted as sensitivity in the name of doubtful art.”
The local ward member, Coun John Riddle, added: “I do not believe this is a fitting way to honour the Queen or the Commonwealth.”
He admitted that he quite likes the design, but that it is not appropriate in this location.
After the decision, Ms Anderson said she was ‘delighted’ and that she was ‘utterly amazed’ by how the opposition had grown through the Keep the Wannies Wild group.
She added: “I hope this is an end to it, I really do, I hope it doesn’t go any further, but if it does, I’m certain we have got a lot of people who are willing to chip in and do things.”
But a statement from the applicants said: ‘We believe that Ascendant: The Elizabeth Landmark will be a valuable asset to local communities and the North East of England, bringing national and international interest, economic prosperity through tourism and situates the site of the landmark as a cultural destination.
‘We have worked extensively to ensure the landmark has minimal impact on the flora, fauna and wildlife of the proposed location and after taking recommendations from Northumberland County Council officers and an independent assessor, we are hopeful that the project will be approved through the National Planning Inspectorate and we will be lodging an appeal during the summer.’