CONTROVERSIAL plans to build artificial earth mounds on top of Accrington's Coppice have been given the thumbs-down after council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "No, no, no."
The panopticons scheme came under the spotlight at a meeting of Hyndburn Council on Wednesday when Nick Hunt, the director of project co-ordinators Mid-Pennine Arts, pleaded with councillors to give it their backing.
But members voted 16-9 against the scheme - dubbed Landroom - as they felt it would attract vandals and cost too much to maintain. There were five abstentions.
Artist Peter Beard had designed the £50,000 panopticon after funding was secured from the Single Regeneration Budget and the North West Development Agency.
Mr Hunt argued the earth mounds would not be obtrusive on the landscape.
He said: "They would have quite a low profile to anyone looking up at the Coppice. But when you got up there they would be impressive.
"We have started a similar project in Rossendale, which is attracting £300,000 investment into the area. This could happen here and the council would see some beneficial effects from this project."
But Councillor Paul Barton said: "If you put this design in front of local people, they would say it looks like something from the Teletubbies. The people of Hyndburn would laugh at it."
Councillor Janet Storey added: "I have grave doubts about funding this scheme after it has been built. If it is vandalised we will have to pick up the bill. We are not talking about a garden bench, we are talking about something that would have ramifications on the council budget in the future."
Expressing his support for the panopticon, Councillor Graham Jones said: "I didn't like the Hollywood sign, which was 99 per cent parody and one per cent art, but what is at the core of this debate is that the area is in decline and needs urgent action."
Former Labour group leader Councillor Ian Ormerod added: "The Coppice paths are not in good condition and would cost a considerable amount of money to repair.
"If we scotch this scheme it would leave a lot of work to be done and £300,000 is not to be sniffed at. We have to be brave, go ahead with it and look forward to the delight it will bring future generations."
But council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "The first ideas put forward in 2003 were ridiculous. The spaceship and the Hollywood sign were not acceptable and we met the people behind them and asked them to do something more suitable.
"They could have linked it to the Accrington Pals or Accrington Stanley, or proposed something based on Accrington brick. I feel what they have come back with meets none of those criteria.
"They say it won't cost us any money to build, but if someone offered to paint my house red, blue, white, green and purple I would say thanks but I don't want it painting. I think we should put in paths and a picnic area up there. This would benefit everyone and wouldn't be obtrusive.
"Hyndburn is not ready for this, I am not ready for this and my three words are - no, no, no."
Councillor Britcliffe said the idea of the debate was to seek a view for the Cabinet to follow when it makes a decision after the final designs are submitted in April.
Before then, residents will be able to quiz the designer during three special meetings: On Tuesday at Scaitcliffe House from 7pm; next Saturday in Accrington Town Hall from noon; and on Tuesday 15 March at a meeting of Huncoat Area Council in Huncoat Primary School from 7.30pm.
- IN AN Observer telephone poll, 79 per cent said they did not want any work of art on top of the Coppice.