BREAKING NEWS: Council proposes to scrap Shelley Fountain

Horsham - Shelley fountain area. 29-02-16. Pic Steve Robards SR1607124 SUS-160229-150905001
Horsham - Shelley fountain area. 29-02-16. Pic Steve Robards SR1607124 SUS-160229-150905001

The fate of Shelley Fountain will be decided next week - with Horsham District Council set to scrap the controversial sculpture.

A spokesperson for HDC said the Rising Universe has ‘reached the end of its serviceable life’, 20 years after it was installed in the Bishopric.

Repairs and maintenance of the fountain have cost more than £200,000 since its installation.

Councillors are set to debate the sculpture at a meeting on Wednesday April 27 - but a report before the council proposes the removal of the fountain.

Under the proposal, the central globe and satellite arms would be removed while the splash pool area would remain and be incorporated into a formalised planting scheme as part of landscape enhancements to the area.

The council spokesperson said the new landscaping would provide a more attractive environment while further consideration is given to future options to improve the wider Bishopric public realm area as part of developing the town centre vision for Horsham later this year.

Shelley Fountain would require ongoing costly repairs as well as weekly and monthly maintenance work to retain it as originally intended, the council said.

In view of the current and anticipated pressures on the council’s budgets, and feedback from the public who are strongly in favour of removing the sculpture, the removal of the Rising Universe is therefore being proposed.

The council spokesperson added: “The decision is being made against a backdrop of renewed investment with the recent opening of the John Lewis at Home and Waitrose development, the current refurbishment of Bishop Weald House and the recently announced proposals for a revitalisation of the Swan Walk Centre to provide family restaurants and a multiplex cinema.”

If the council gives the go-ahead, the landscaping scheme would be designed to have the potential to be included in plans for the longer term vision for the area.

Approval for expenditure of around £40,000 is being sought to enable the works to take place and to fund additional landscape enhancements in the town centre.

Jonathan Chowen, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “Since the Rising Universe was installed in 1996 it has evoked strong opinions - both good and bad - which is often the case with works of art.

“As the engineering costs and challenges of maintaining the Rising Universe have increased over time, it is now not possible to maintain the water fountain element, and without it, it is no longer the sculpture or art work that was originally envisaged.

“It is unfair to the sculpture, the artist and the town to leave the situation unresolved.

“Following a great deal of consultation, discussion and thought, plus the growing views of the wider public, we have come to the conclusion that the sculpture should be removed and steps taken to enhance the area by using savings and additional investment to provide landscaping and the return of more floral displays to make the town centre more attractive.”

A spokesman for The Horsham Society said: “Whilst there is no doubt that it was controversial and polarised views, it was held in great affection by very many residents and visitors to the town.

“Few can forget the delight on the faces of children in particular as the tension mounted before tons of water cascaded into the basin.

“It brought colour and life to this corner of the town, and it was iconic as the face of Horsham nightly on our television screens.

“Nevertheless, we acknowledge the long history of maintenance problems and understand, and support, the proposal now to remove it. Let us remember it fondly for the enjoyment it gave in earlier years.”

Frances Haigh, chair of Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum added: “Of all the comments we have ever received from the public, the Shelley Fountain has been one of the most popular topics.

“We celebrate its unique contribution to Horsham for the last twenty years. Many people will remember it fondly from the excitement of watching it in action as a child.

“However, it is very much a ‘marmite’ feature and there are equally strong feelings against it. As a large, moving sculpture it continues to be very expensive to maintain.

“We agree that it has had its day and we look forward to working with Horsham District Council on a new scheme for this important public space within our town centre.”

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