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Shoot for the moon: Stephen Smartt and artist Oliver Jeffers. Credit: Lorcan Doherty
Michael Kenwood, Local Democracy Reporter
A high-profile sculpture trail travelling the UK is facing opposition from locals in Holywood, Co Down.
The “Our Place in Space” sculpture trail, currently in England, was approved by elected members at Ards and North Down Council’s recent meeting of its planning committee, despite facing opposition from local residents.
The trail’s presence at the planning Committee was triggered by six letters of objection from the public.
The proposal involves six sculptural artworks of the sun and planets, a new footpath and access to the coastal path, and associated works – all at the grounds of the Ulster Transport Museum, Bangor Road, Holywood. None of the statutory consultees objected to the plan.
Several neighbours complained safety issues would be caused by the new access gate to the coastal path, which would be beside a bottleneck at the single file part of Seafront Road. Residents said it would compound serious visitor parking issues at Seafront Road and Glen Road.
Neighbours state removal of trees close to the boundary would result in a loss of privacy and “quiet enjoyment of their existing private amenity space.” Some have highlighted the impact the plans will have on local biodiversity, particularly on pine martens and other species.
One resident highlighted that while indoor attractions at the museum were subject to opening and closing times, the trail would not be, while another resident questioned how the development would be maintained in the future, in terms of security, crowd control, anti-social behaviour, litter and general upkeep.
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A collaboration between Northern Ireland artist, illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers, the Nerve Centre in Derry, the NI Science Festival, National Museums NI and others led to the commissioning of the epic scale sculpture of the solar system, which is currently at Cambridge in England. The trail was previously in Derry and Belfast, and is scheduled for North Down in the Autumn.
“Our Place in Space” is part of the “Unlocked” programme funded by the Government as a celebration of innovation and creativity across the UK in 2022. The Festival UK 2022 website states the project features “10 ground-breaking commissions designed to reach millions, bring people together and showcase UK creativity globally.”
The Ards and North Down council officer planning report recommended the plan to elected representatives.
It states: “The proposed sculptures will allow for a better visitor experience, with potential for additional revenue, thus helping to sustain this existing regional tourism attraction. Given the sculptures are linked with the cultural and learning experience associated with the existing museum, I am satisfied that the principle of development is acceptable.”
The report states the coastal path is outside the boundary of the application, and as such the council “cannot provide comments to any existing issues with pedestrian traffic safety.” It adds the proposed path would emerge onto existing coastal pathway only accessible by foot, and as such “should not result in any issues with pedestrian safety.”
The report adds: “It would be considered that most visitors will use the museum parking provided and only local residents/visitors wanting to walk along the coastal path will park in the surrounding residential area. The council would not ask for any traffic impact assessment given the proposal involves the placement of six sculptures within the grounds of an existing museum.”
The officer adds: “As shown in the proposed site plan, a mature boundary will be retained with additional planting provided around the pathways and sculptures. The sculptures are located over 20 metres from the dwellings along Dachoolin, therefore I am not of the opinion that there will be any loss of privacy.”
The officer confirmed the access gate will be closed at museum closing time. Councillors voted unanimously to approve the sculpture trail.
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