New £50,000 public artwork in Hanham raises eyebrows

A new public art installation at the housing estate off Greenbank Road in Hanham is causing a stir.

The brief for the art project at Bellway Homes’  development was for a string of bespoke benches but the recently installed creation is on a part of the site that had been earmarked for trees and a wildflower meadow.

Some local residents are also concerned that the 20 ‘mushroom’-like objects could become a meeting point for anti-social behaviour and questions are being asked about what public consultation took place.

In 2016 the Bristol church group House of Faith, which had owned the land since the 1940s and used to have a meeting place there, sold it for development. A planning application was submitted to South Gloucestershire Council the following year and Bellway Homes started work on the 77-home development in 2018.

There was a £50,000 budget for a “high quality contemporary art” project to integrate the new development and its residents into the existing communities nearby. The brief said that the benches “will feature prose/poetry that takes influence from local heritage and stories. This will be written/gathered through social engagement with the local community.”

This week a resident of nearby Tyler Close said: “I saw this strange display last week and wondered who on earth thought this was a good idea. I am appalled at the possible expense of this pseudo artwork. I cannot imagine what the householders who overlook this area must think.

“How long are those pieces going to stay in place on a slope or be vandalised and rolled down the slope?”

Another person living nearby told us: “Few, if any, of the landscaping plans for the site have been followed.”

One resident said they were concerned about the apparent lack of the promised wildlife habitat. They described the art feature as “appalling” and echoed concerns about it being a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

They also pointed out that despite the industrial wording on the ‘mushrooms’, the estate is called Faithfields Close, reflecting its true heritage. They said the only industry on the site had been a couple of small medieval mines.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “The public art was a requirement of the planning permission for the Bellway Homes development on Greenbank Road in Hanham. The developer provided details of the art scheme to the council and the relevant planning condition has been discharged.

“The artists worked with Hanham Local History Society, Kingswood Museum and Bristol Archives to help understand Hanham’s history and they also conducted a series of public writing workshops with local residents at Hanham Library and Hanham Community Centre as part of the project.

“The council is satisfied that the public art installation is compatible with the tree and wildflower meadow planting which is to be carried out as part of the approved landscaping scheme.”

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