A celebrated artist’s “most important work” could remain unfinished after national park planners recommended the rejection of plans for a series of sculptures in an area of special scientific interest.
The North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee will meet next week to consider five applications by Carphone Warehouse billionaire David Ross’s foundation to allow sculpture and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy to complete his Hanging Stones sculpture trail.
If proposals for buildings to be called such things as Ebenezer and Bog House – which have been described by art experts as “genius” – are granted it would see the Yorkshire-raised artist spend five years building stone properties on ruins of historic buildings in Rosedale to house artworks.
In a statement to the committee, the world renowned sculptor said while he had created art in landscapes for 44 years, the Hanging Stones project would be the most important work he ever produced.
He said it was up to the committee to decide if Hanging Stones “would be experienced as a complete or incomplete artwork”, following him finishing four sculptured buildings in the dale. “Either way”, he said, “your decision will be written into a story that will be read by generations to come”.
Due to concerns the sculptures could harm the fragile national park landscape, officers said the proposals were “about Mrs Goldworthy’s personal ambitions’ and recommended they be refused by the committee in July.
However, some planning committee members expressed support for the scheme, with Rosedale resident Ena Dent stating: “I wonder if Michaelangelo or the Egyptian pyramids had gone to planning what we would have lost.”
A decision on the proposals was deferred until the applicant provided further details, such as an in-depth visitor management plan and permissive path proposals and for habitat surveys to be undertaken.
A planning officers’ report to the committee next week states despite an acceptable visitor management plan having been developed and it becoming clear ecological concerns could be addressed by conditions, officers would still recommend refusal for all five applications.
The officers’ report states: “Most the dale and all of the moorland above are currently accessible to the public to enjoy the existing special qualities and landscape that the North York Moors National Park offers, without the need to introduce new buildings into it which are not related to these existing special qualities and will in fact erode them.
“In the case of these proposals it is considered that they would create additional sporadic development and result in the construction of new buildings in the open countryside contrary to adopted policies and to the detriment of the landscape character of the area.
“The previous permissions granted for sculptures in this valley relate to the conversion of existing structurally sound buildings.”
However, Mr Goldsworthy has contended art is by its very nature “outside of the normal”.
He said: “It reflects the unique and the deeply personal view of an individual. Art does not conform. It is an exception. Hanging Stones should be not seen as setting precedents for rebuilding all old buildings as art works, or for any other purpose, elsewhere.
“The repair of a building is for me an act of renewal and not of ‘developer’, and this notion of renewal is an important dimension of my earning or having the right to remake the building as a work of art.”