Iconic Cheltenham sculpture could be removed and sold
By James Young | 30th August 2019
An iconic sculpture that has been in place in Cheltenham town centre for nearly 50 years is set to be removed and sold.
Since 1972, the three metal designs that form the 'Theme and Variations' sculpture have adorned Cheltenham House on Clarence Street.
Designed by renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth and manufactured between 1969-1972, the sculpture was commissioned by architects Healing and Overbury who designed Cheltenham House.
The building was originally constructed for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society and opened in 1972.
Barbara Hepworth described the work as a "mural sculpture comprising semi-circular bronze forms superimposed in a three-part composition.
She was appointed as both a CBE and a Dame in recognition of her work, that is renowned across the globe.
'Theme and Variations' currently sits above the restaurant Wagamama - although the original may not be there for much longer.
In an application to Cheltenham Borough Council, Romac Investments are applying to remove the existing sculpture, sell it and replace it with a "like-for-like replica."
Documents filed with the application state that the artwork is in separate ownership to the rest of the building as it was retained by previous owners when the building was sold.
The building is not listed but because it falls within the Cheltenham Conservation Area the owners have asked if planning permission is needed for the removal and replacement.
A similar application was made in 1988, but refused by the council due to the sculpture "being specifically designed for the building."
At the time, the council added they "would not consider that a replica is a satisfactory alternative and the removal of the original sculpture would detract from both the history and integrity of the present building."
The current applicant is challenging the 1988 verdict and has quoted numerous examples from case law as to why their application should be granted.
Their conclusions state a view that planning permission is not required to remove and replace the sculpture and should the council refuse the move it would be subject to a legal challenge.
The council will decide on whether permission is needed to remove and replace the sculpture by October.
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