PLANNING permission for a proposed statue of a Cumbrian businessman at an historic religious site in south Cumbria has been formally refused. 

The borough council's planning committee voted down the monument to Sir John Laing despite it being recommended for approval. 

Sir John is said to have felt 'forever indebted' to Furness Abbey after he prayed there for his firm in times of trouble. His company went on to thrive. 

But councillors have remained unconvinced that the abbey is an appropriate site for the statue of the businessman.

"He wasn't born here, he was born in Carlisle," the planning committee's vice chairman, Cllr Colin Thomson, told The Mail.

"He's done nothing here to help the town."

Cllr Thomson felt approving the application would 'set a precedent' for others wishing to put statues at the abbey.

READ MORE: 'It's not good enough for Barrow' - Controversy over Furness Abbey statue plan

Planning committee member Cllr Bill McEwan said: "My bottom line is it would open the floodgates for other people to put statues in the abbey."

Attempts were made to contact applicant David Laing, the grandson of Sir John, via GSSArchitecture, the application agent. 

At a previous planning committee meeting, Mr Laing had argued against the notion that his grandfather had had little to do with Barrow.

"He may not have been a resident of Barrow, but he was very much a man of the area, and he did work here, his men worked here and he brought work into the area," he said.

Mr Laing told councillors that, without Barrow, Coventry's iconic cathedral, which his grandfather's firm built, would not exist. 

The bronze, life-sized sculpture of Sir John, positioned on a wooden bench, would have been situated with its back to the railway line in an area to the north of the main abbey.

The planning committee turned it down, primarily, for two reasons:

  • The proposal would not 'contribute to the enhancement of the character, appearance and historic interest of related landscapes, settlements, street scenes, buildings, open spaces, trees and other environmental assets'.
  • The proposal 'would not serve to conserve and enhance the historic environment, including heritage assets and their setting' and 'does not contribute to any design objectives for the site or the area'.