Towers art project shrinks as city copes with a new age of austerity since 2008

Man of Steel, by Steve Mehdi
Man of Steel, by Steve Mehdi
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PLANS for a multi-million pound artwork close to the site of the former Tinsley cooling towers have been scaled back after Sheffield City Council argued the cost could not be justified in times of austerity.

The £500,000 donated by energy firm E.ON when the landmark towers next to the M1 were demolished five years ago will instead fund a “community based art project” in the area.

Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “Although this is smaller in scale than the vision of five years ago, 2008 seems a world away now.

“We cannot hope to raise multi millions needed to create a large scheme – nor do I think people in Sheffield would want us to use our limited resources in this way in the present difficult financial times.

“But smaller can still be beautiful and we are working to commission the right artist to create an important work. This remains a significant project for Tinsley and for Sheffield.”

The decision was praised by Steve Mehdi, the artist behind plans for Man of Steel, a giant sculpture that is due to occupy a nearby site overlooking the M1.

He said: “From our perspective we support the idea that they should spend that money in that way. Having Man of Steel and a collection of other sculpture in the region can only help the local economy.

“I think everybody is conscious this has been a tough few years in the economy and I think they are going about this in the best possible way, delivering something rather than nothing and I applaud them for that.”

A new report by Sheffield Hallam University suggests Man of Steel, a privately funded project, could add £9m to the local economy every year.

Planning permission has been secured for the Man of Steel site and it is hoped the work could be in place by 2015.

A design brief for the new Tinsley work is expected to be published by the end of the year.

While no firm guide has been given to the scale of the revised work, the Cutting Edge sculpture in Sheaf Square cost in the region of £700,000.

Plans for the new artwork first emerged following the vociferous campaign against the decision to demolish the Tinsley cooling towers.

E.ON is currently building a biomass-fuelled power plant on the site which is due to be completed next year.