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Row erupts over plans to spray 500ft numbers in dye on Pendle Hill
TROUBLE is brewing over controversial new plans to spray 500ft high numbers in dye on the side of Pendle Hill.
Tourism chiefs have unveiled artwork which would see the landmark dyed with the date ‘1612’ to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the infamous witch trials.
The numerals will be almost as high as Blackpool Tower and visible across a large swathe of East Lancashire.
The dye is biodegradable and is expected to disappear after three months.
Once completed, it will be nearly three times the size of Cherwill’s White Horse and the Cerne Abbas Giant.
But the scheme, measuring 1,700 feet wide and costing £1,500, has provoked a mixed reaction, with the Bishop of Burnley questioning why the ‘harrowing’ date is being commemorated - and others claiming it is ‘distasteful’.
Barrowford artist Phillipe Handford, who is behind the artwork, said: “This is something which I have always wanted to do and I felt this was an appropriate way to mark the 400th anniversary.
“The dye I will be using is the same as that which is used for sports pitches - it won’t be there forever and a day.
“This is quite an unique opportunity - I’ve worked on the hillside before and did create an arrow on there previously - but this is going to be even larger.”
And people living in the shadow of the 1,296ft summit say council funds could have been better spent.
But Bishop of Burnley the Right Rev John Goddard said: “This period of time was a harrowing and awful experience for many people involved.
“Is this a celebration of the time, which was quite a dark period in our history, this fear of people who were different and a kangaroo court?
“If they are celebrating for tourism you have to ask are they also asking further questions about the event, I do have reservations about it being treated this way.
“It is good that Pendle Council want to promote tourism and they want to promote employment through tourism, but this is perhaps not an element of history that we would want to celebrate in this way.
“Will there be some recognition of the injustice to these women? How we celebrate history is a very important affair but maybe they have just missed the mark with this.”
Bill Mayor, chairman of Goldshawbooth Parish Council, which covers the Newchurch-in-Pendle and Spen Brook villages, said residents would have preferred if more attention was paid to the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
“Pendle Hill has a beautiful outline, which oftens looks spectacular, and to put this artificial statement on there seems totally unnecessary,” said Mr Mayor.
“We are going to see it more than anyone because of where we live and it’s quite distasteful. We have to question, in these tight times, whether this is a sensible use of money as well.”
Brian Jackson, of Pendle Friends of the Earth, said: “This was a dark time and not something which should be rammed down our throats.
“If they wanted to commemorate this then they could have a floral clock, or something like that, but this just seems to be a cockamayme scheme.”
Brian Nelson, chairman of Roughlee Parish Council, said there had been little discussion about the scheme because it was believed it was not going ahead.
Mr Nelson, of Noggarth Road, said: “My own personal view is I’m not happy. I live right under Pendle Hill and to be honest I don’t want to be looking out on ‘1612’ every day.”
Council regeneration manager Mike Williams said in a report: “As part of the programme of events to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witches, and to promote the area as a visitor destination, the council has commissioned a local artist to temporarily dye the historic date of ‘1612’ on Pendle Hill.
“The dye used is temporary and will not adversely affect the environment. The area covered will be approximately 500ft by 1400ft.”
Work on the project is expected to begin later this month.
Trials have already taken place on smaller areas, involving the dye, to test out its resilience during an East Lancashire summer.
The proposals will also be discussed at a meeting of the Barrowford and Western Parishes Committee, to be held at Barrowford’s parish rooms, next Thursday (May 10).
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