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‘Deeply unpopular’ golden River Cam sculpture could cost £150,000

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A golden wave sculpture proposed for the banks of the River Cam would cost the city council up to £150,000 if it is approved tonight (Thursday, March 24).

Campaigners from Friends of the River Cam fear the plan for the sculpture at Sheep’s Green in Cambridge could be “bulldozed through” despite widespread opposition to the artwork in a public consultation.

And Green councillors have called for the decision to be delayed until the results of the consultation are scrutinised as they say the money could be better spent on providing a riverside pathway rather than an unpopular artwork.

To The River, art project proposal from Cambridge City Council (55165954)
To The River, art project proposal from Cambridge City Council (55165954)

Jean Glasburg, of Friends of the River Cam, said: “There has been huge public opposition to the plans, with Anna Smith, the Leader of the City Council, assuring residents that was a genuine consultation and the views given would be listened to - yet it seems councillors are being asked to approve spending a huge sum of money at the meeting with minimal information on the project, and no consideration of the fact that the consultation showed huge, and widespread, opposition to it from residents' groups across the city and also environmental groups, including Cam Valley Forum, Friends of the Cam and Cambridge Friends of the Earth.

“It seems they are aiming to bulldoze it though in the same way as the unpopular plan for the market down for approval at the same meeting.”

Cambridge City Council describes the artwork as “a three-dimensional sculpture formed in a subtle gold-coloured metal. It will be positioned along the riverbank at Sheep’s Green, dipping into the river water and folding along and up, connecting land and water and etched with the pattern of Cambridge lace.

“The colour is described as gold, but it will be subtle with an effect that can be described as like the range of colours seen in sunlight when oil has been dropped into a puddle. It is not proposed that the work will be shining as a bright metallic gold.”

However, Wendy Blythe, chair of FECRA, said on Twitter: “A comment in the consultation referred to art project being ‘like a gold filling in a mouth full of rotting teeth.’”

Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green, Abbey ) told the Cambridge Independent: “ “Residents have been told that if this project doesn't go ahead, then the money goes back to the developers .But it's clear from the report that the money allocated to this report has already been spent.

“Councillors have not been briefed on where this project went wrong and why there is so little to show for the money already spent. Unless we understand what went wrong and it is demonstrated that there are controls in place to prevent further problems, councillors should not be asked for any further funds for this project.”

The Greens are proposing the discussion is delayed until the next meeting of the environment and community scrutiny committee on June 30.

They are suggesting the money could be better spent on a cycle and pedestrian friendly leisure path from Quayside to Fen Ditton along the river. Most of this route already exists but there is a gap on Riverside after funding ran out, which S106 money could be used to bridge, according to Cllr Naomi.

Cllr Hannah Copley (Green, Abbey) said: “We are being asked to sign off on £80-150k of the remaining £290k funds available for public art, on the basis that we are ‘assuming a positive outcome’ from the recent consultation. This is a huge amount of money, potentially more than half of everything we have left for public art, to spend in one of the wealthiest wards in Cambridge, and numerous local residents groups have let me know that they both haven't been consulted, and strongly disagree with the proposal. Why would we not wait until the consultation result is back first? I am asking the committee tonight to wait for the full consultation report before taking further steps with what seems to be a deeply unpopular concept.”

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