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After Verity, Ilfracombe housing backed by Damien Hirst gets the go-ahead

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 24, 2014

  • Damien Hirst's controversial statue of Verity, a naked, pregnant woman wielding a sword, on Ilfracombe seafront. The town is undergoing something of a boom, despite many writing it off

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A resort many dismissed as being on the decline has produced further proof of an astonishing renaissance after plans for a massive housing development backed by Damien Hirst cleared their first hurdle.

Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast, has been home to Verity, a naked 66ft-tall, sword-wielding pregnant woman since October 2012.

The statue, on a 20-year loan from controversial artist Hirst, has thrown the genteel town into the national and international spotlight.

Now plans for a 750-home development on the edge of the resort have been approved by the town's council.

The so-called Southern Extension would be developed over the next ten to 15 years and is estimated as creating up to 100 new jobs a year.

Hirst, whose own secluded country estate stands five miles away, is said to have a horror of "anonymous, lifeless buildings" and wants "the kind of homes he would want to live in".

The 187-acre site covers much of Winsham Farm, a wildlife haven which Turner Prize-winning Hirst bought for £900,000 ten years ago. The millionaire artist, famous for pickling sharks, is thought to be the world's richest with a personal fortune estimated in excess of £200 million.

Anne Thomas, who sits on Ilfracombe Town Council's planning committee, said the expansion was desperately needed to breathe new life into the area.

"The town's population needs to increase to make the High Street sustainable," she said.

She said Ilfracombe badly needed the new school outlined in the plans, adding: "The infant school is over-subscribed – it's a fantastic school but it's over-crowded."

She said that the development would be good for the town's economy, adding: "There will be industrial units and shops – hopefully it will bring more jobs to the town."

The project hasn't been all plain sailing with many residents living alongside fearing the development will invade their privacy, swamp local services and turn the quaint Victorian town's narrow streets into a traffic nightmare.

However, the Southern Extension would see homes, a school and shops built on land to the south of the town.

Open space, sports pitches, parkland, woodland, allotments and the re-alignment of Old Barnstaple Road are also planned.

Hirst, along with Verity, a bronze-clad "modern allegory of truth and justice", has had a huge effect on tourism.

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