The Belly of the South
It will be Devon’s answer to the Angel Of The North: a giant statue of a naked pregnant woman holding a sword above her head.
The monumental sculpture – which is a full ten inches higher than its 66ft North East counterpart – is the brainchild of controversial artist Damien Hirst, who wants to erect it in a car park at Ilfracombe harbour.
Hirst, who lives in a £3.5 million farmhouse just outside the resort, has told local councillors they can have the statue on loan for 20 years if they grant him the necessary planning permission.
Hirst’s idea for an ‘Angel of the West’ has already divided opinion and some residents in the town, which is a teenage pregnancy blackspot, have instead dubbed it ‘The Belly of the South’.
But the proposal is expected to be given the go-ahead by councillors convinced it will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors.
It would also be a boon for Hirst’s restaurant, 11 The Quay, which is just 100 yards from the proposed site.
Planners will make their decision in September, and the sculpture, which currently exists in three sections, could be in place two months later.
Councillor Mike Edmunds said: ‘We have got to find new ways of attracting visitors.
‘We are lucky to have an artist of Damien’s stature in the area and we want to start rebranding the town in the area of the arts rather than as just a traditional resort.’Another councillor, Philip Webb, added: ‘It is going to make a big difference to the town and the local economy.
In his back yard: Damien Hirst lives in a £3.5million farmhouse just outside Ilfracombe
‘Damien wants to make a statement and this statue certainly does that.
‘I think it’s a wonderful idea and I’d be surprised if anyone opposed it.’
The bronze finished figure, which has a stainless-steel frame, will hold a glass-fibre sword aloft and a pair of scales behind her back and stand on a plinth of law books, staring out to sea.
The scales and sword are similar to those carried by the Statue of Justice on the roof of the Old Bailey.
One local source last night said 47-year-old Hirst had added the books at the 11th hour to ensure it would be taller than Antony Gormley’s Angel Of The North, erected in 1998.
English Heritage has no objection to Hirst’s sculpture, thought to be the latest part of his Virgin Mother series, on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Historic buildings inspector Francis Kelly said: ‘This sounds like an important and thought-provoking project that would add a considerable amount of interest to Ilfracombe.’
But council planners may have reckoned without public opinion.
Bobby Davies, 69-year-old social secretary of Ilfracombe Yacht Club, said: ‘Oh, please no. Tell me they’re not really going to do this.
‘People will come to look at it – probably to have a good laugh at our expense. Given Ilfracombe’s past problems with teenage pregnancies I can’t believe this is so in-your-face.