Published: January 26, 2012
EXCLUSIVE by DAN CARRIER
A SECRET plan to build a giant replica of the Rio De Janeiro statue of Christ The Redeemer close to the summit of Primrose Hill has been uncovered by the New Journal.
The scheme, which is yet to go before the Town Hall’s planning department, is to be funded by the Brazilian government to celebrate the end of the London 2012 Olympics and mark the moment the city of Rio takes on the Olympic mantle for the 2016 Games.
But the proposal, based on the world famous statue which overlooks Rio from the heights of Corcovado mountain, is already dividing opinion.
Friends of Primrose Hill chairman Malcolm Kafetz said: “I do not see why it should go there. I think it sounds unsuitable for a piece like this. It does not represent anything of England or Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill is a place for people to go and enjoy the view. I will be bringing this up with the Friends committee.”
A planning consultancy based in London has been employed by Brazil’s tourist agency to hold a public meeting to display the designs.
Emails seen by the New Journal reveal organisers asking for secrecy over the scheme so that when it is unveiled after this summer’s Games are over there is a “wow” factor – and a big surprise – for people living nearby.
In a message sent to a handful of Primrose Hill residents, the designers and planning team said the statue would provide a focal point for “the world’s media at the end of the handover”.
They added: “The structure that has been selected is iconic in nature and synonymous with Rio. The intention is for a planning application to be submitted in February.”
Other regular visitors to Primrose Hill said they would withhold judgment until the plans were unveiled.
The Primrose Hill Community Association’s Maureen Betts said she had been approached and that they were planning to hold a meeting to discuss the plans with the designers before they go to Camden Council’s planning committee with the scheme. She added: “I personally would not mind if it was temporary and it depends on what it looks like.”
Her views were echoed by the Primrose Hill Conservation Area Committee’s Pam White.
She said: “I have no objections if it is temporary and we are looking forward to seeing the designs. The Royal Parks have already desecrated the top of Primrose Hill against our advice.”
Primrose Hill Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed.
He added: “If they want to put something on the hill I think they need to get some more original ideas. This sounds a bit like some marketing brainstorm which hasn’t been thought through.”
A spokesman for planning consultants Dalton Warner Davis, who are helping put together an application for the Brazilian Tourist Board and Camden-based designers See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me Ltd, said they were not prepared to comment on any details, adding: “There are a number of options regarding design and location being considered and therefore it is premature to comment.”
A spokesman for Primrose Hill managers the Royal Parks said they had had no contact with the Brazilian Tourist Board over the idea. The spokesman added: “Any plans would have to go though the relevant application process.”