Thatcher statue approved despite vandalism fears

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Plans for a statue of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in her home town have been approved, despite concerns about it being vandalised.

The £30,000 installation, which was originally intended to be placed in Parliament Square in Westminster, will stand on a 10ft-high granite plinth because of fears of a “motivated far-left movement… who may be committed to public activism”.

South Kesteven District Council’s planning committee unanimously voted in favour of the statue, which will placed on St Peter’s Hill in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on the condition it is erected within three years.

Those in favour of it said Baroness Thatcher, who was in No 10 from 1979 to 1990, had put the town into the “worldwide consciousness”.

She died in 2013, with her ceremonial funeral including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Margaret Thatcher secured a 5.3% swing in 1979, but she was in opposition and Jim Callaghan's government was spent
Image: Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street for 11 years

Lincolnshire Police said it did not oppose the application, but urged caution about the security of the statue.

Many councillors expressed fears about it being vandalised, with one suggesting it would be better to put it “in the middle of a pond” to stop people climbing it.

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Objections from the public included the potential for crime and disorder, Baroness Thatcher’s divisive policies and the public cost implications.

At the moment, the only memorial of Baroness Thatcher in the town is a plaque on the corner of North Parade and Broad Street, marking where she was born.

The 20ft high statue, designed by sculptor Douglas Jennings, will be placed between the two existing statues in the area of Sir Isaac Newton and Frederick Tollemache.

Undated handout file photo of sculptor Douglas Jennings' statue of Margaret Thatcher
Image: Many councillors have expressed fears about the statue being vandalised

Westminster Council rejected an application for the statue last year because it could have caused “potential vandalism and civil disorder”.

A number of local Labour Party members protested outside the hearing, displaying banners such as “Grantham Resident Against Maggie”.

The planning committee received a total of 17 objections, with seven people writing in support.

Backers of the idea said it had the potential to mean an “enhancement to Grantham’s tourist offer”.

Undated handout file photo of sculptor Douglas Jennings' statue of Margaret Thatcher
Image: Backers said it had the potential to mean an ‘enhancement to Grantham’s tourist offer’

A report to the committee said: “In general there remains a motivated far-left movement across the UK (though not so much in Lincolnshire) who may be committed to public activism.

“Margaret Thatcher does however maintain an element of emblematic significance to many on the left and the passage of time does seem to have diminished that intensity of feeling.”

Council leader Councillor Matthew Lee said: “Margaret Thatcher was an important political figure, both nationally and internationally, and deserves to be recognised in her home town.

“Whatever your views, the statue will undoubtedly attract more visitors to the town which can only be good news for Grantham’s local economy, bringing benefits and opportunities for residents and local businesses.”

David Burling, a trustee of Grantham Community Heritage Association (GCHA), which runs the town’s museum and submitted the application, said: “The interest and increase in visitors the statue will bring will not only secure the future of the museum for years to come but also allow us to develop and improve our permanent Margaret Thatcher exhibition which is already viewed by thousands of people each year.”

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