Larne’s controversial Jubilee Crown is here to stay

The Crown at the Circular Road roundabout. INLT 48-346-PR
The Crown at the Circular Road roundabout. INLT 48-346-PR
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The future of Larne’s Jubilee Crown has been secured, after a request to make it a permenant feature was approved by planners.

Over three years after it was first installed at Circular Road roundabout, the contentious eight-metre high structure has finally been granted permenant planning permission.

The application, lodged by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’, was passed by an overwhelming majority at the latest planning committee meeting.

Principal planning officer Gary McGuinness told elected members that no issues had been forthcoming from statutory consultees, adding that one objection had been received to the application, which planners were minded to approve subject to conditions.

Addressing the committee in support of the application, Alderman Gregg McKeen said there were no objections from local neighbourhoods and that “clearly it has the support within the area”.

“I would commend the support of the community for this application,” he stated.

Ald McKeen also pointed out that it was publicly advertised and looked at by planners, adding “it has met all requirements”.

Speaking out against the application, Cllr Declan O’Loan said he had no objection to the application “in principle”, stating “my view is founded on aesthetic grounds”.

He said: “The best term to describe the crown is as a piece of kitsch.

“Cheap and tacky are other words that can be applied and have been applied to this construction.

“Council has a duty to consider this in design terms and if you do so you will find significant want.

“Design is the key issue here and that is for you to make a judgement of.”

Cllr Lindsay Millar pointed out to Cllr O’Loan that “art, by its nature, is subjective” while Cllr Billy Henry highlighted that the application was “from a corporate body on which Cllr O’Loan sits”.

Cllr Beth Adger proposed, seconded by Cllr Lindsay Millar, that the committee accept the recommendation of the planning department to approve the application, subject to attached conditions.

However, Sinn Fein member Cllr McKeown described the crown as “something that doesn’t enhance Larne at all” and felt an Equality Impact Assessment needed to be carried out.

An amendment by Cllr McKeown to defer making a decision on the application failed to find a seconder and the original proposal to approve was agreed, with seven members voting for and one against.

Speaking after the meeting, TUV Cllr Ruth Wilson expressed her delight at the outcome, adding: “I would like to pay tribute to all those who have shown their support in the Press and social media from across the political spectrum.

“It is also satisfying that the public money spent on this artistic landmark has not been wasted or squandered but will be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th year and on into the future.”

Meanwhile, DUP member Cllr Paul Reid also welcomed the decision and said the Jubille Crown structure has “become an icon”.

“People recognise and refer to the crown roundabout and I welcome the decision of the planning committee to retain the crown in celebration of the longest-reigning monarch in history,” he said.

“No one in my constituency has spoken to me about having the crown removed.”

The structure was put in place shortly before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012, at a cost of £13,000 of ratepayers’ money.

It was initially installed on a temporary basis, but the former Larne Borough Council later applied for retrospective planning permission and in 2013. Planners agreed that the structure could stay in place for two years, until December 2015.

Designed and created by Larne Skills Development, the crown has divided opinion in the town, with some welcoming it as a tourist attraction while critics have branded it “hideous” and “a waste of money”.

Following the council’s decision to retain the crown on a permenant basis, a number of local people took to Facebook to express their delight:

- Great news. It is a great piece of workmanship and is situated where all can see.

- Brilliant , don’t know what all the fuss was about anyway.

- Well done to all concerned in retaining our crown.