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Shaftesbury art protest makes Commons scheme untenable, claims councillor

By Blackmore Vale Magazine  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

Shaftesbury Commons Art scheme

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A TOWN councillor is calling for the organisers of a public art project in Shaftesbury to go back to the drawing board.

John Lewer says he believes opposition is strong and widespread among Shaftesbury residents and not just from a minority voicing their views.

Councillor Lewer added the art on the Commons issue to the agenda of the town council's planning and highways committee for a meeting he chaired on Tuesday.

He said the views of the council were still being considered and a statement would be issued next week.

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But his personal view was that many people had been unaware of plans for the artwork and were angry about both the procurement process and the designs that had emerged so far.

This week's meeting followed clashes at a presentation about the proposal given by Shaftesbury Civic Society, which is taking a lead in the project, and the chosen artists, Adam Zombory-Moldovan and Simon Thomas Pirie.

Mr Lewer had attended the second session of the presentation and prepared a report for the town council. He stated: "Emotions came to boiling point and the meeting almost broke down.".

He added: "The overwhelming criticism was of lack of publicity. Many people said they had only heard very recently that the project even existed."

He went on to state that people had suggested the procurement process was flawed. And he has suggested that the Civic Society give a full account of the whole process.

He said he believes the position of the project - which had a grant of £5,000 from the town council to progress it as part of the wider town centre enhancement scheme - is now untenable.

The Common Places project had been devised by the Dorset Design and Heritage Forum. The artists were selected from a shortlist out of the original 39 artists who applied for the commission.

A statement from Shaftesbury Civic Society urges as many people as possible to comment on the scheme.

It states: "Shaftesbury Civic Society is leading the project and is keen for public feedback to come in while the artists are still in the development and consultation stages."

Future funding for the scheme would come from applications to outside bodies.

One objector, who asked not to be named, said people were angry about the way the proposal was being handled and feared that an inappropriate work would be both unsightly and a hazard in the centre of the historic town.

He added: "I have yet to find anybody who likes it.

"But there is a huge number of people against it."

Dee Adcock

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