A £300,000 statue of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is to be erected in her home town – despite fears that it will be a ‘likely target for politically motivated vandals’.
A heritage association in Grantham, Lincolnshire put in an application to install a bronze statue on a plinth, which would be 6.4 metres high, on a patch of grass outside the town’s museum.
Plans to erect a statue had previously split the town for over a decade – but the deadlock was broken when South Kesteven District Council members unanimously approved the application during a meeting yesterday.
Sculptor Douglas Jennings working on his statue of Margaret Thatcher which is set to be erected in Grantham, Lincolnshire (Fine Architecture/PA)
Dave Burling, museum curator at Grantham Museum told councillors during the meeting that they had a duty to ‘educate people’ and added: ‘We don’t do this by telling an edited story’.
Grantham Community Heritage Association applied for permission to erect the statue which has been created by Sculptor Douglas Jennings in November.
Plans to erect the statue in Parliament Square, London were rejected by Westminster Council last year with a report saying it could have attracted ‘potential vandalism and civil disorder’.
But the application for the statue in St Peter’s Hill in Grantham was recommended for approval by a planning officer at South Kesteven District Council before being given the green light yesterday.
In a report to the council ahead of the decision, Lincolnshire Police said the force was worried about vandals and suggested the statue is place on a ‘sufficiently high plinth’ within easy view – to deter attackers.
A police spokesperson wrote in a report it would ‘likely target for politically-motivated vandals.
Artist’s impression: With a 3.2m sculpture atop a 3.2m plinth, the proposed statue would dominate the quiet town square in Grantham
Baroness Margaret Thatcher at The Conservative Way Forward Summer Party at St Stephen’s Club, London on July 20, 2010
They added: ‘The divisive nature of Baroness Thatcher due to her political career and policy legacy and the potential for this to result in vandalism has been raised as a concern.
‘Lincolnshire Police’s Crime Prevention Officer has not objected to the proposal but they have recommended the statue is placed on a sufficiently high plinth and is sited in a location that benefits from good natural surveillance as well as lighting and CCTV.’
The council received 17 objections to the statue, while seven people submitted letters of support.
Those for the plans said the statue would ‘commemorate the first female prime minister’.
The Public Memorials Appeal offered the 10ft 5in statue to Grantham – after plans to erect it in London’s Parliament Square were rejected.
A small number of Labour members protested outside the Guildhall in Grantham before the application was approved (Josh Payne/PA)
It was funded privately and is thought to have cost £300,000.
Speaking ahead of the vote, council leader Matthew Lee, said: ‘A daughter of this town should be honoured with a statue.
Mr Lee stressed that the plans were not about politics and said: ‘We are honouring her as a person and her links to this town, whatever you think of her politics.
‘No-one can dispute she was a very divisive character though.’
Margaret Thatcher was British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and former leader of the Conservative Party.
Plans to erect a statue to Grantham’s most famous daughter have split the town for over a decade.
Many of Grantham’s mayors have campaigned for a statue of Baroness Thatcher but despite this – Grantham’s only tribute to her is tiny plaque above her father’s former grocer’s store in North Parade.
In 2013 a manager at Grantham Museum was suspended after wrongly suggesting a statue of Baroness Thatcher had been donated to the town.
And following the death of Baroness Thatcher six years ago plans to erect a statue in Grantham had stalled again.
The deadlock was finally broken last week when a report to South Kesteven District Council stated there is not felt to be a significant threat to the installation of the statue locally.
Douglas Jennings´s statue of Margaret Thatcher which was rejected for Parliament Square but is set to be erected in her home town of Grantham, Lincolnshire (Fine Architecture/PA)
However it added: ‘In general there remains a motivated far-left movement across the UK who may be committed to public activism.
‘It still remains that there is a possibility any public statue of ‘Baroness Thatcher’ would be a likely target for politically motivated vandals.’
St Peter’s Hill is a green space in the heart of Grantham and is already home to a statue of Sir Isaac Newton who attended King’s Grammar School in the town.
Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) was born and raised in Grantham and attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, before gaining a scholarship to study at Oxford University.
The work, which is currently said to be in storage at ‘a secret location’, received support from Prime Minister Theresa May, and was offered to Grantham in July after the original plans were rejected.
A Westminster council planning document suggested the proposed statue had come too soon after Baroness Thatcher’s death in 2013.
The council has a ’10 year principle’, where statues or memorials are generally not erected until 10 years have elapsed since the subject’s death.
The Metropolitan Police also raised concerns over possible civil disobedience but this did not form part of the planning application.