A world renowned artist has moved a step further towards completing his most important work in the heart of a national park after the area’s custodians decided it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee gave its officers authority to approve Yorkshire-raised Andy Goldsworthy’s Hanging Stones project once a detailed heritage assessment was complete, despite fears it could damage the highly protected landscape.
The debate followed months of deliberations about the artwork, which would see five ruined historic properties in Rosedale “brought back from the brink”, adding to the five properties he had previously been allowed to rebuild as part of the project funded by Carphone Warehouse billionaire David Ross’s foundation.
The meeting heard Mr Goldsworthy, who is known for ephemeral works created outdoors from natural materials found on-site, appeal for the scheme to be granted after a decision was postponed to develop a plan to manage volumes of visitors and to assess the potential impact of visitors on the valley.
As Mr Goldsworthy was working in the US his partner, art historian Tina Fiske, read a statement in which he said while the buildings would house artworks, the completed artwork would be the ten buildings and a four-hour walk between them.
It stated: “There is nothing more important to me than Hanging Stones.
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“Whilst Hanging Stones is taking me on an extraordinary journey which is producing a work of art with deep personal significance it is also one that resonates with the wider public.
"Hanging Stones is about the revelations, meanings, connections and insights about the place that it can afford to others, young and old, as well as to myself as an artist.
“I have never worked on a project that has enjoyed so much support yet is so close to being prevented from being completed.
“Hanging Stones is as challenging for me as an artist as I am sure it is for the planning committee. This is how it should be. Art is outside of the normal, it doesn’t conform.”
The meeting heard the project had received widespread support among the global artistic community as well as from the majority of locals and some committee members murmured approval as they were shown photos of the completed Hanging Stones buildings.
Resident Paddy Chambers said: “As well as providing a unique experience for those wishing to see the work of an internationally renowned artist in the national park, residents of Rosedale will feel justly proud that in our previously somewhat neglected part of the world we are home to a project of international importance.”
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However, the authority’s director of planning Chris France said some of the ruins were in prominent positions and rebuilding them would represent new building in open countryside, harm the character of the landscape and dilute the special qualities of the national park, particularly tranquillity and a sense of remoteness.
Mr France said the work on the first five Hanging Stones buildings had less of an impact on the landscape as they had been significantly less ruined.
He said setting out to recreate the historic buildings – which the meeting heard may include a 16th century farmstead and a meeting house – could also be damaging as there was uncertainty over their cultural significance.
The meeting heard Mr Goldsworthy had pledged an archaeologist would be on site to advise whenever digging would take place and insist that his project would conserve heritage and the landscape’s character.
Mr France added the project was “a fantastic idea for re-using a traditional building which is absolutely inspirational”, plans to restrict visitor numbers by a booking system would limit the environmental damage and the artwork would be on public rights of way, so any number of people could view it.
Withstanding the environmental impact and concerns that farmers could argue they should be allowed to rebuild properties elsewhere if Mr Goldsworthy was permitted to, members said the potential economic and cultural benefits of the scheme were plentiful.
Jim Bailey, the park authority’s chairman said the artwork would renew the character of Rosedale “in an exceptional way” and give tens of thousands of people a chance to experience its spirituality.
Member Patrick James said: “This is Andy Goldsworthy. He is a sensational artist and it would be hugely to the credit of the park if we had more sculptures by him in the park.”