COLSTON STATUE: Ignored bid to replace statue with BLM protester
A bid to install a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester on the Colston Statue plinth was deliberately ignored, Bristol City Council’s top planner has revealed.
A government inspector will rule whether the life-sized depiction of Jen Reid can sit for two years atop the empty base where slave trader Edward Colston’s monument was pulled down last summer, after an appeal was lodged on the grounds of “non-determination”.
Now head of development control Gary Collins has told councillors the local authority made a “conscious” choice not to make a decision on the planning application to install the piece, called A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, in the time required.
Mr Collins said it was because the newly established We Are Bristol History Commission, set up by mayor Marvin Rees after the Colston Statue was toppled and dumped in the harbour in June 2020, was considering a wide range of issues about the city’s past.
Top of the commission’s considerations is whether monuments of slavers and streets linked to them should be replaced, and if so, with what?
Mr Collins told the meeting on Wednesday (April 28): “Members will be aware that a piece of art, the Jen Reid statue referred to as A Surge of Power, was put on the plinth for around 24 hours.
“I want to confine myself to answering the procedural points around that because obviously there are lots of issues around all of that.
“Applications were made around the time that piece of art appeared on the plinth.
“The applications weren’t progressed by us, basically, so no decisions were made.
“The people behind the artwork have exercised their right to appeal against that lack of decisions, so that is now in the hands of the planning inspectorate to come to a view on those proposals.”
Cllr Stephen Clarke asked: “So that was a procedural mistake by us not to determine them within the time?”
Mr Collins replied: “It wasn’t a mistake, it was a conscious decision not to progress with those applications.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail around that but it’s fair to say the council has set up the history commission around the statue, the plinth and all the wide-ranging issues around that, therefore the consultation of and consideration of one specific proposal would have run counter to that process.
“So, there was a conscious decision not to proceed with the processing of those applications.”
The Jen Reid sculpture was erected on July 15 but was taken down by the council 24 hours later as it had not approved the installation.
The black resin and steel statue captured the moment the demonstrator stood on the plinth with her fist raised in the air after Colston’s monument came down.
Urban planning and landscape company Interpolitan Ltd sought planning permission to keep it there for two years and lodged an appeal after the application was not determined.
A planning inspector will make the decision at a formal hearing on a date yet to be fixed.
The council, as landowner, would still need to give permission for the artwork to be added to the plinth even if the appeal succeeded.
Mayor Marvin Rees has previously criticised the sculpture’s London-based artist Marc Quinn for taking the decision about what should replace Colston “without talking to the people of Bristol”.
Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
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