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The Cambridge Don is sent down: Council orders removal of controversial £150,000 sculpture

A controversial sculpture in Cambridge is set to be removed after the city council said it had not been authorised.

The 13-foot sculpture, named The Cambridge Don, stands outside Charter House at 62-68 Hills Road.

The Don statue. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Don statue. Picture: Keith Heppell

It is said to represent the late Prince Philip’s role as chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

The £150,000 figure was previously linked to artist Pablo Atchugarry, who has since disowned the piece.

Following its placement, a Cambridge City Council public art officer said it was “possibly the poorest quality work that has ever been submitted to the council”.

On March 5, an enforcement notice was issued by the council for the “unauthorised erection” of the sculpture. It states that the unauthorised development has a “harmful material impact” on the appearance of the area and is contrary to policies in the Cambridge Local Plan.

“The unauthorised development, by reason of its scale, height and prominent location, has a harmful material impact on the visual amenity of the wider townscape and the New Town and Glisson Road conservation area. There are also no public benefits that would outweigh the moderate degree of less than substantial harm to the New Town and Glisson Road Conservation Area,” the notice states.

The notice says the sculpture must be permanently removed along with its foundations and plinth within four months from 11 April, unless an appeal is made beforehand. The land must also be restored to its former condition prior to the sculpture’s installation.

The Don statue on the corner of Norwich Street will come down. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Don statue on the corner of Norwich Street will come down. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab, Petersfield), executive councillor for planning, building control and infrastructure, wrote in a blog post that nobody “seems to have a good word to say about it”.

“I will be glad to see it gone, but remain angry that developers could just dump it in place and then force the council to spend officers’ time and money getting them to take it away. We deserve better,” she said.

In the original report recommending that permission for the sculpture is refused, the council’s head of planning wrote: “The scale of the work is too large for the context of the surrounding buildings and space and hence the quality of the work, the development and the wider townscape would be compromised by its installation. As a standalone work it is not of the best quality.”

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