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Town's New Centre-piece: 'diabolical Corkscrew'

A SCULPTURE designed as a focal point for a 'sensory garden' in Watford town centre is to be voted on by the entire town council after one councillor said it was a 'diabolical, upside-down corkscrew'.

The sculpture, to be placed at the entrance to the churchyard of St Mary's Church, a Grade I listed building, received support from a narrow majority of councillors at Tuesday's development control meeting.

It inspired so much strong feeling that all councillors will debate the piece later this year before any work is done.

The planned sculpture is a narrow twisted column of metal framework, tapering to a point five metres above the ground - as high as a double-decker bus. It is covered by more than 30 panels of brass, copper, steel and stained glass.

On the panels will be images showing scenes of the town, such as the stained glass of the church.

It was chosen by community groups and artists and will be paid for by the Arts Council. The image-panels are to be chosen at a later date following workshops.

The sculpture is intended to enhance the sensory garden - between the church and the Citizens' Advice Bureau - which has been designed with tactile and scented plants to appeal to those with sensory impairments, such as the blind.

At Tuesday's meeting, councillors were told English Heritage had deemed the structure too modern for the chosen setting and an infringement of the church's setting.

In a letter to the council, an advisor on historic areas said: 'I regret to say I am concerned that this avant-garde structure does not appear to respect its location or the impact it would have on the setting of the church.'

Manchester-based sculptor Adrian Moakes says he designed the piece to soften the 'extreme contrast' between the modern commercialism of the high street and the historic architecture and greenery of St Mary's Church and its grounds.

Councillor Tim Williams said at the meeting: 'I realise it's each to their own on this sculpture but this is quite a damaging report we have received from English Heritage.

'I know this sculpture is supposed to be abstract and is intended to complement the church and the modern high street but I think it's a load of nonsense.

'I see it as a basically diabolical upside-down corkscrew. It's an ugly sculpture and I don't think it's right for the conservation area.

'I realise these are subjective comments but the sculpture is grotesque.'

Councillor Andy Head was in favour of the sculpture, saying: 'This sculpture was chosen in a democratic way by local people and the Arts Council has commissioned the work. If we reject it they will pay for the work done so far and that leaves even less money to go through the process for choosing and installing a new piece of artwork.'

The Vicar of St Mary's Church, the Rev John Woodger, said it fell short of its requirement to bridge the space between the town centre and the sensory garden.

He said: 'I think we need something there that is fairly striking but beautiful and something that will set off the church and is appropriate for that setting.

'The sculpture that will go there should be timeless and I think this is too modern and that it may deteriorate in a few years.'

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