The scallops will stay where they are
A CONTROVERSIAL sculpture which has divided opinion from Aldeburgh to Edinburgh is to stay put. Suffolk Coastal District Council and Aldeburgh Town Council have agreed that Maggi Hambling's stainless steel scallop shell tribute to Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach should not be moved in spite of a local campaign calling for it to be sited elsewhere.
A CONTROVERSIAL sculpture which has divided opinion from Aldeburgh to Edinburgh is to stay put.
Suffolk Coastal District Council and Aldeburgh Town Council have agreed that Maggi Hambling's stainless steel scallop shell tribute to Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach should not be moved in spite of a local campaign calling for it to be sited elsewhere.
Ms Hambling described it as "terrific news" and said she was relieved.
The striking work has caused furore over the past few months, with impassioned arguments on whether to keep it at its present site in front of a beach car park north of the town or move it to another location.
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A petition in favour of moving it was started in the town at the end of last year just a few weeks after it was unveiled, and attracted nearly 1,000 signatures.
Campaigners argued that the stretch of empty beach should remain "unspoilt".
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The town council agreed to take the matter up with the district council, and the two sides met last week to discuss what could be done.
A petition supporting the sculpture's present site set up in response raised more than 1,000 names.
The EADT ran a readers' poll, in which 2,163 people voted in favour of the shells staying put, and 738 against. Although most were local people, the poll attracted votes from as far as Scotland.
Suffolk Coastal Leader Ray Herring said the choice of the present site followed a thorough and open process.
"Together we reviewed the findings of previous consultations, including the Town Council's attempts to seek local views on possible sites, and considered the petitions, counter-petitions and correspondence that Suffolk Coastal has received. It was agreed that no alternative site seemed likely to achieve anything except further controversy. Scallop will therefore stay put.
"We are sorry if that is disappointing to those Aldeburgh people who have asked for the sculpture to be moved. However, the current site was only approved after a thorough and open planning process.
"When we asked for comments on the planning application last summer, there were only 22 letters of objection (and 24 of support), despite extensive coverage in the local press that indicated the scale of the work."
The sculpture was unveiled in November 2003, as a tribute to Britten, one of Aldeburgh's most famous former residents whose music was inspired by the coastline.
It was given to Suffolk Coastal by the artist and the Adnams Charity, which raised more than £56,000 for it, much from individuals and trusts.
Mayor of Aldeburgh Felicity Bromage wanted to draw a line under the debate.
"Maggi Hambling originally described her sculpture as being 'a conversation with the sea' and it has certainly stirred up many debates over the recent months.
"However, the time for talking has come to an end and there does not appear to be a suitable alternative location, therefore I hope the discussions about it will now cease."
Suffolk Coastal will soon put an interpretation board by the car park near Scallop for visitors can learn more about the sculpture. It is also looking at providing access for disabled people. A booklet will follow later in the year.
Ms Hambling remained philosophical about some of the stinging criticisms of the work, which has also been highly praised by many.
"I make the thing then it goes out into the world and has a life of its own.
"It's gratifying that people's reaction does seem to prove that the sculpture has a bit of life to it."
She added: "People's reactions are not up to me. It's up to them."