Campaigners have scored a victory in their bid to have an historic statue placed in a prominent position in the town centre.
A project to have the statue of Prince Albert erected outside the town hall in Queen’s Square, Priory Meadow, has been given approval by the Planning Inspectorate.
In February a bid put forward by campaigners was refused planning consent by councillors on Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee, going against officers’ recommendations.
The council said the statue’s condition was so poor it would not be suitable for display alongside the town hall, which is a Grade II listed building.
Campaigners submitted an appeal to have the decision overturned.
The inspectorate’s decision to reverse the refusal was received by the project leaders on Tuesday (November 3).
At a public consultation event in July last year, 247 people signed a form supporting the proposal to have the statue relocated to the vicinity of the town hall.
Steven Whitford, lead for the Prince Albert Statue community group project, said: “The public have been made aware of the present condition of the statue, which has suffered from neglect in storage since being unsympathetically removed from the memorial by the demolition firm in 1973.
“The statue was actually bought from the demolition firm by resident Edith Skelton for £50, and eventually found a home in the glasshouse at Alexandra Park, becoming a feature of the ‘Albert House’, a section of the mini floral hall public attraction in operation at the glasshouse from the mid-1970s until closure in the 1990s.
“The facial features of the statue have eroded, but much detail of the attire is in fair order, and the statue is certainly of great heritage value to the town.”
Sculpted in Portland stone by Edwin Stirling at his studio in Liverpool in 1862, the statue was installed high up in the clock tower that was a popular focal feature and meeting place in Hastings town centre for more than 100 years.
Steven added: “There have long been calls to have the statue put back in the public domain, and, in a report to the Museums Committee in 2010, Hastings Borough Council’s officer Virginia Gilbert stated the council would be looking for a community group to work with on achieving this.
“Now that the community group has the planning inspectorate’s approval for having the statue relocated to alongside the town hall, it is hoped the council, which owns the land where the statue is to be erected, will be happy to let the project to go ahead without any further complications.
“As soon as the council confirms this to the community group, fundraising for the project will start.
“A Portland stone pedestal is required to stand the statue on, and there is the cost of removing the statue from its storage place in the glasshouse at the service yard located at Alexandra Park for erection alongside the town hall. The estimated cost to complete the project is £5,000.
“An information board, giving a concise history of the statue, is also being installed, and this is to be funded by Kelly Stirling, great-great-granddaughter of the statue’s sculptor, and her family, who live in California.
“Kelly has made a couple of visits to view the statue, and is overjoyed that her ancestor’s work is being put back on public display in Hastings.”
A booklet, The Story of Albert and his Memorial, has been produced by Brian Lawes and Hastings Local History Group. This costs £3 and is available from Book-Buster, in Queen’s Road.
All proceeds from the sale of the booklet will go towards the project.
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