Plan to move suffragette statue from Parliament scrapped after public outcry

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A controversial plan to move a statue of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst from outside Parliament has been shelved after a public outcry.

The statue of the civil rights campaigner has been in Victoria Tower Gardens since 1930, but the Emmeline Pankhurst Trust wanted to move it to Regent’s University in Regent’s Park, three miles away.

However the proposal sparked anger among those who argue a depiction of someone who played a major role in the campaign to secure the vote for women should remain in a high-profile location by Parliament.

According to Westminster City Council’s website the planning application was withdrawn on Friday. It also revealed that of 236 comments on the plan, 232 objected to it.

Rights campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, who was one of those who campaigned against the plan, said those who objected should be “proud”.

She said on Twitter: “Next step is to get the Emmeline Pankhurst statue listing upgraded to Grade II* with its significance specifically connected to its location.”

She said this involved getting Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport “to make sure they approve it and save Emmeline for future generations”.

The plans were submitted to the council by former Tory MP Sir Neil Thorne, representing the Emmeline Pankhurst Trust.

The plan would have seen the statue moved to the “central forecourt of Regent’s University” in Regent’s Park, and aimed to erect a replacement in Parliament Square, the documents show.

They added: “Whilst the memorial is considered to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the registered Victoria Tower Gardens and the conservation area, it makes a limited and neutral to positive contribution to the settings of the World Heritage Site, nearby statutorily listed buildings and other statutorily listed statues within the Gardens.

“Its location in Victoria Tower Gardens was purely the result of negotiation and bureaucracy in 1929; the suffragettes had no historical connections with the Gardens and no significant events in which the Pankhursts participated took place there.”

Earlier in September, a Labour frontbencher said all 650 MPs should object to the plan.

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz encouraged support for the campaign, telling MPs: “The planning application has gone in, it’s been made to Westminster, and I think all members should object.

“It’s right the memorial should overlook Parliament.”

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom replied: “In terms of the proposal to move the Emmeline Pankhurst statue, the idea is actually to move that one in order to have a much bigger one in Parliament Square.

“I know that’s the ambition of the advocates of that and I know there are quite strongly held views.”

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