Civic leaders are standing by their decision made over a decade ago to place the Arthur Aaron statue on a city centre roundabout - after campaigners called for it to be moved from its ‘disrespectful’ spot.
The 17ft tall bronze sculpture - to Leeds’ only serviceman to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War - has been standing at the bottom of Eastgate since 2001 after YEP readers voted the hero airman the subject of the city’s Millennium Statue project.
Earlier this month, campaigners Dave Whittaker and Bev Osborne launched a bid to move the statue to Roundhay, where Flt Sgt Aaron was from, arguing its current location was “disrespectful” as it was easily missed.
But the decision-makers behind the statue have said the idea was to install public art in the historically neglected Eastgate area and hopefully spark development.
Martin Wainwright, chairman of the Scurrah Wainwright Charity, which paid for the statue and gifted it to Leeds Civic Trust for the project, said: “It’s prime purpose, regardless of who won the vote for its subject, was and remains to trigger the development of the Eastgate area and specifically the roundabout as a centre for public art.”
He said he would rather wait until current developments in that area - such as Hammerson’s Victoria Gate - are completed, before any decision is made to relocate the statue.
His view was echoed by Kevin Grady, director of Leeds Civic Trust, who said the statue was commissioned as public art for that specific location and it was “premature” to discuss moving it now.
“We always thought, as did the Scurrah Wainwright Trust, that there was considerable potential to make it an attractive place. There are still many things going on, admittedly slower than we would have hoped, which may mean that that objective is finally achieved.
“So although I understand the sentiments of people who feel that the Arthur Aaron statue is a war memorial and it should be in a place where other war heroes are commemorated, that was never the idea of putting a statue there.
“We are still very enthusiastic about the notion of that area being improved and made more attractive and moving the statue away would be totally out of keeping with that thinking.”