Councillor Tattersall has suggested bringing John Fielden’s statue back to its original site outside the Town Hall and the council have supported him to the tune of £20,000, without first investigating the possible ramifications of their decision and without seeking any kind of public assent for it.
According to Councillor Tattersall, shifting the statue a few hundred yards down the road will attract more visitors to the town. Really? Hardly less valid is his claim that putting the statue in the town centre watched over by an unmonitored CCTV camera will protect it from vandalism.
I would have thought that the best way of protecting it would be to leave it in the park, where it has never been vandalised.
The statue is not a solid piece of masonry; it consists merely of a thin shell of bronze. There were no motor vehicles when it first stood outside the Town Hall. Returning it there now will expose it to high levels of pollution.
Bronze is a copper-based alloy and is particularly vulnerable to corrosion from diesel fumes. Within a few decades, the statue will be damaged irreparably.
The statue is on Historic England’s Heritage List and is, therefore, covered by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This means that the council will need planning permission to relocate it.
Obtaining permission will put us all through more unnecessary expense, though it will at least give us the opportunity to express our opinion of the whole farrago.
A recent (2014) Court of Appeal decision noted that one of Parliament’s intentions in passing the 1990 Act was that ‘decision makers should give “considerable importance and weight” to the desirability of preserving the setting of listed buildings’ when carrying out the balancing exercise’.
The established setting for the statue is the park, not the Town Hall, where it has not stood since 1890.
Instead of wasting public resources on the idea of a single councillor, I suggest that the council puts its mind to restoring the bandstand in the park. Band festivals and other musical events will attract visitors to the town more than relocating Fielden’s statue ever will.