Whitby Abbey sculpture that would only be 'finished' when it snows is scrapped

Plans to install an “unfinished” sculpture that would only have been complete when it snowed in the shadow of Whitby Abbey have been withdrawn following a deluge of complaints.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 1st March 2021, 12:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:37 pm

The Wild Eye trail, a collaboration between Scarborough Council, English Heritage and Scarborough-based environmental art charity Invisible Dust, had been backed by £140,000 from the Government’s the Town Deal Fast Track Fund.

The sculptures, one at the Abbey Plain in Whitby and another at Scarborough Castle, were due to be part of a heritage trail and had been created by artist Ryan Gander OBE.

The creations were described as dolos shaped, reminiscent of a concrete structure that is used as a barrier to prevent coastal erosion.

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An artist's impression of what the sculpture could have looked like.

The sculpture will only be “finished”, however, when it snows according to the supporting documents submitted as part of two planning applications to Scarborough Council as the work intends to make a statement about climate change.

Last week, however, almost 90 complaints flooded into the council from residents in Whitby about the “eyesore” structure.

On Friday, it was confirmed that the plans for the Whitby installation had been withdrawn but the sculpture at Scarborough Castle is still going through the planning process and has had no objections.

A number of the objectors felt that the sculpture was not the right thing to be placed next to the iconic abbey.

An artist's impression of the 'finished' sculpture.

Residents and visitors to the town also made their feelings known on social media.

One wrote: “I object to this enormous plain lump of concrete that looks nothing like an anchor to be plonked near the Whitby Abbey Heritage site.

“Spoiling a view of such outstanding natural beauty.”

Another added: “The proposed sculpture is totally inappropriate for the Whitby Abbey Plain which already has a ‘marker’, namely the Abbey Cross.

“The form and appearance of the proposed sculpture would conflict in style, shape and material with the Ancient Monument, the Abbey Cross and detract from the appearance of Abbey Plain rather than add to and compliment it.”

Whitby Town Council also objected to the plans.

Invisible Dust has confirmed that the Whitby element of the plan would be looked at again.

Alice Sharp artistic director at Invisible Dust said: “We have received a number of comments from the community which we have taken on board and we are reviewing the Wild Eye planning proposal.

“The project focuses on natural history and reducing climate change and the public art and community activities are to encourage awareness around this.”

In the planning documents the artist said that the works of art were designed to highlight the ongoing impact of climate change.

It added: “The idea is that the work is incomplete without snowfall – nature has to complete the form. If it was snowed on it would be made whole again but the likelihood of this happening (particularly at coastal sites) is becoming less and less likely due to climate change.

“Human impact and lack of action on climate change means it snows less and the piece is less likely to ever be ‘finished’.”