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Statues of Britain’s Forgotten Pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read

An interesting application has recently been made for the erection of a statue in honour of the lives of two notorious and intrepid women pirates, Anne Bonny (born in Ireland 1697) and Mary Read (born in England 1685). Disguised as boys in their childhood they both escaped to sea and found freedom and adventure, as pirates in the Caribbean.

The statue/sculpture is proposed to be erected in a position facing out to sea on some rocks located on the north western side of Burgh Island, Bigbury on Sea, South Devon. It is not clear at this stage whether the statue will be sited within an area recently designated as ‘Local Green Space’ in the Bigbury Neighbourhood Plan but it would be within the ‘South Devon Heritage Coast’ and within an area designated as ‘Undeveloped Coast’ in the Plymouth & South West Devon Joint Local Plan.

The statue made of marine class concrete is approximately 2.4m high and will sit on stainless steel, partly buried, plinths which would be anchored into the rock face. The statue is certainly intended to be firmly fixed to the ground and to be permanent, although in that location they will get a severe battering by the sea.

The first question is whether they would be regarded as ‘inappropriate development’ if they were within the area of ‘Local Green Space’ and if so how would you then assess the impact on openness? The second matter, in relation to the ‘Heritage Coast’ and ‘Undeveloped Coast’ designations, is whether this development requires a coastal location and will it protect, maintain and enhance the unique landscape and seascape character and special qualities of the area.

The application has already been the subject of considerable opposition by many members of the local community although it has also received some level of support. The main concern relates to its impact on the landscape with many people also questioning whether statues commemorating pirates are politically correct these days given the move against the former erection of statues commemorating people involved in slavery.

The sculpture is already completed and on show at Execution Dock in London. It is certainly a stunning piece of artwork and will attract a lot of additional tourists to the area, which may have pros and cons. However, there is also concern that the erection of a statue on these rocks, which would be difficult to reach, will attract those people with an adventurous spirit wanting to get closer. It will be in a rather vulnerable location, possibly resulting in being covered in graffiti or otherwise damaged. In this exposed, unsupervised and somewhat dangerous location, it could also result in problems of safety for those trying to access the site.

It is an interesting case that will certainly result in a lot of interest if planning permission is granted.

By Valerie Scott

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