ARTISTS have been accused of "losing the plot'' over an idea to erect a huge Hollywood-style sign on Accrington's skyline.
The nine-metre-high monument spelling out the town's name would be erected at the top of the Coppice if the bizarre plan goes ahead. But the suggestion was greeted with a mixture of outrage and hilarity this week.
It's one of a number of strange entries in a competition to create six new landmarks across East Lancashire organised by the Lancashire Environmental Arts Network in conjunction with Mid-Pennine Arts.
Apart from the sign, the design features 827 coloured bricks to represent each soldier from the Accrington Pals who died during the First World War. Other ideas for the Coppice include a flying saucer and a glowing beacon.
It could cost £50,000 to build the winning design in a bid to attract visitors and provide a stunning landmark.
Hyndburn's MP Greg Pope said: "Part of the idea appeals to me but I'm partly horrified because I think it would spoil a very pretty area. I'll be very surprised if it happens. In a tasteless way there is some appeal in it but I can't take it very seriously.
"People all over the world will have read about it and no harm has been done if it gets people talking about Accrington. And it will be interesting to see what people in Haslingden feel about seeing the word Accrington spelled backwards."
Hyndburn Council's Labour group leader Councillor Mrs Jean Battle said: "We should spend the money on improving the town rather than a silly thing like this. I've already had complaints from residents who aren't impressed.''
Peel ward councillor Graham Jones said: "I'm not happy with some of the designs. The sign is meant to commemorate the Accrington Pals but it will just look tacky."
Chairman of Accrington Civic Trust, Mr Alan Benson, said: "There is no point spending £50,000 on a monument unless it can be properly maintained. The Trust put a plinth up there over 10 years ago with a metal engraving on and it didn't last 12 months. It's got to be done in a sensible manner."
Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "I think the multi-million-dollar question has to be is this the right time for this? "At the end of the day the judges will pick a winner for this competition but I think it will be up to the people of the borough to decide. We will have to see what the public reaction is and I would urge people to write to the Observer to express their views."
Margaret Wyatt, marketing consultant for the project, said council taxpayers would not foot the bill. She said: "The money has come from other sources and agencies such as the North West Development Agency and the Arts Council.
They share a belief that this project can inspire and interest people and bring a sense of pride to the area. "It has generated a lot of publicity and been a good talking point for East Lancashire. It will attract economic interest to the area."