Concerns over “politically-motivated” vandals failed to deter councillors from approving a monument to the first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The plans for the monument of the Grantham-born Iron Lady, to be situated outside Grantham Museum, were examined by members of South Kesteven Development Management Committee.
A report before the councillors said there were recommendations that Mrs Thatcher’s likeness should be placed on a “sufficiently high plinth” and in easy view, in a bid to avoid it being attacked.
It said there was the possibility any public statue of Mrs Thatcher “would be a likely target for politically motivated vandals.”
According to reports before the councillors on Tuesday, the bronze statue, to go on St Peter’s Hill, will be placed on a 3.2 metre high plinth, making it over 6.4 metres tall in total.
During a debate before the committee, councillors, supporters and objectors outlined all the controversies and successes of Thatcher’s career.
Coun Charmaine Morgan said Thatcher “did little to help her fellow women” adding “she preferred the company of men”.
She queried the position of the statue in the public rather than “in context” in the museum, especially given the security concerns.
“Our police are struggling to manage without the additional burden,” she said.
“I understand Margaret Thatcher’s statue is currently out of sight in a secret location, perhaps it should stay there,” she concluded.
Coun Ray Wootten called the statue a “lasting tribute to a great woman.”
Dave Burling, museum curator, says they understand the debate, but argue that they have a duty to educate people on Thatcher. “We don’t do this by telling an edited story,” he says.
He said the Margaret Thatcher statue was “not the end, it is only the beginning”.
The hope is the move will bring investment to the town and enable more to be done to attract people to the town.
Coun Jacky Smith said: “It’s way beyond time that we recognise Mrs Thatcher for her abilities and what she did for this country. She put Grantham on the map fair and square.”
Coun Ashley Baxter said he would not vote for Thatcher but said he saw no planning reasons to turn the statue down.
“It will have a positive impact and good for Grantham and the economy. It will make people stop and think about Thatcherism, all the things she did and all the problems she caused,” he said.
Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) was born and raised in Grantham and attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, before gaining a scholarship to study at Oxford University. Her father Alfred, a grocer, was Mayor from 1945 to 1946. She entered the House of Lords in 1992.
She was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.
Plans to build the statue on Parliament Square, in London, were previously rejected by Westminster Council due to the fear of it being targeted by protestors.
Mr Burling, a Trustee of Grantham Community Heritage Association (GCHA), which runs the town’s museum and submitted the application, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our plans to bring a statue of Grantham’s most famous daughter to the town have been given the go-ahead.
“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.
“The debate about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy will now continue for generations to come. This is about inspiring, educating and informing people about someone who represents a significant part of the town’s heritage.”
The proposals, which were the result of an agreement between GCHA, South Kesteven District Council and Ivan Saxton, chairman of The Public Memorials Appeal, were approved unanimously today (Tuesday) by the council’s Development Management Committee.
The statue has been paid for by The Public Memorials Appeal, a charity that aims to commission and erect memorials of historically important people. Money raised by the GCHA Margaret Thatcher Appeal will help deliver the statue. No public funds have been used.
The Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Coun 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.”
Coun Graham Jeal, the GCHA Trustee coordinating the project, said all parties are working towards unveiling the statue towards the end of the year.
“We will be speaking with our professional advisers on the next stage of the project and appointing stonemasons to create the 10.5ft granite plinth which will be sited on St Peter’s Hill,” he said. “We will continue to raise money for the statue project and every penny donated will tell the story of Margaret Thatcher in the Grantham Museum.”
The statue shows Margaret Thatcher dressed in the Baronial Gown of Kesteven and wearing the chain of the Order of the Garter. It was created by the critically acclaimed sculptor Douglas Jennings, who has developed a reputation for producing public sculpture that captivates with its level of detail
and naturalistic style.