Newport council chief wants a replica of Chartist mural
9:02am Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
NEWPORT council’s chief executive wants to replace the demolished Chartist Mural with “as clear a replica of that mosaic as we can possibly deliver.”
Will Godfrey told a meeting at Baneswell community centre that is the course of action he wants to recommend to the council.
But at the same gathering - an at times heated Stow Hill ward meeting - he refused to reveal who had ordered the demolition, telling a 25-strong crowd that council staff had received death threats in the aftermath.
It was also revealed that the council will next week begin a public consultation on a new Chartist memorial artwork to replace the mural.
A call was made at the meeting for an identical mural to be provided in the city centre, and ward councillor Miqdad Al Nuaimi said the forthcoming consultation will include a “like-for-like-replacement” as an option.
Mr Godfrey said: “My personal view is, that is not a very ambitious way to celebrate a key part of the city’s history.
“I want to recommend to the council as clear a replica of that mosaic as we can possibly deliver. But it will be a decision for the Cabinet.”
Campaigners demanded the name of the person who ordered the demolition be revealed and asked Mr Godfrey if it was him.
Mr Godfrey said he would not name “particular individuals” because he had been told “we have had threats of assassination” and “I am not going to put my employees in a position where they fear for their safety.”
Mr Godfrey attended the meeting to tell Stow Hill residents of the difficult choices facing the council in coming years, given the need to cut millions of pounds from its budget.
But several campaigners demanded to know why the mural had been pulled down with no warning.
Councillor Al Nuaimi and fellow ward councillor Kate Thomas, who expressed their surprise and disgust at the demolition, had to intervene on several occasions to restore order amid accusations of feeble excuses and lying aimed at the council.
A Save Our Mural campaigner, an artist calling himself Zennis, demanded to know if Mr Godfrey believed the figure of £600,000, quoted as the cost of moving the mural in a specialist report, was correct, having seen the video footage of the mural’s demolition.
Mr Godfrey said he was not an engineer, but he had never stated that the mural could not be saved, and neither had the report, which will be made public next week.
Councillor Al Nuaimi said he hopes a meeting can be organised between the chief executive and campaigners on a way forward.
Zennis said the group had not wanted to “hijack” the ward meeting but “had no choice.”
“People came here because we tried to have a public input, and we’ve been ignored,” he said.
lBefore the original Friars Walk plans were shelved, original developer Modus had been required by the council at the time to reproduce the Chartist Mural as a condition of planning assent.
No such contractual requirement was asked of Queensberry, the developer of the current Friars Walk proposal, by a new administration which decided the mural must be demolished and in March 2012 set aside £50,000 to provide an appropriate commemoration of the movement.
The preferred option then was to replicate the mosaic on the main landings of the city library’s stairwell, a project costed at £22,000.
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