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Iconic sundial in a Nottinghamshire town could be lost to proposed refurbishment

The iconic sundial at the heart of Sutton-in-Ashfield town centre could be removed as part of council plans for a new-look Portland Square.

Ashfield District Council has revealed a new artist’s impression for the town centre focal point, with green spaces and a revamped pedestrian area central to the altered proposals.

It comes as part of the Ashfield Independent-led authority’s £62.6m Towns Fund investment, secured from the Government last year, which will see Sutton and Kirkby transformed with a series of regeneration projects.

New artists impressions for Portland Square in Sutton
New artist’s impressions for Portland Square in Sutton

One project is to provide new green space across parts of the town centres, with the Portland Square proposals chosen to offer a “green lung” in the heart of the town.

It follows consultation with residents earlier this year about how the revamped square could look, with the authority stating an “overwhelming majority” wanted to see the 27-year-old sundial removed.

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The sundial will be replaced by two large, raised planted green areas with built-in seating, designed around a large, centre space.

It is hoped the new green space will become a “focal point” for the town which will be able to host social activities and events.

The council adds the design would include semi-mature trees, grass and flowers, and will lead to increased pavement space around town centre shops.

Councillor Matthew Relf, cabinet member for regeneration, has been leading on Towns Fund plans and says the sundial has failed to “become dear to the hearts” of residents.

He said: “We know the sundial prompts strong feelings one way or another.

“As part of our plans in May, we asked whether the sundial should stay or go.  The overwhelming majority asked for the sundial to go.

“We have looked at the option of moving it to one of our parks but the upper section is 27-year-old fibreglass that is now too fragile to move.

“It is a real shame that it appears to have failed to attract visitors or become dear to the hearts of the majority of local residents.

“We hope our new plans will transform Portland Square into a green lung in our town centre and becomes a focal point for people to meet, spend time and, importantly, spend money with surrounding businesses.”

Initial plans for the sundial, which was created in 1995 at a cost of £800,000, were for it to become a “world-renowned attraction”.

It is thought to be one of the biggest sundials in Europe, however, the council says its impact on tourism “remains unclear”.

And Cllr David Hennigan (Ind), who represents Central Sutton and New Cross which covers the town centre, says there is “little love” for the sundial in his area.

He added: “It has been a grotesque waste of money and I hope its time is up.

“For 27 years, it has stood as a symbol of squandered opportunity and profligacy.  The proposed removal of the sundial shows we are ambitious for our future and want to eradicate the mistakes of the past.”

The authority will now launch a public consultation on its new plans for the square, with residents to be asked for their views on the green spaces proposed in the artist’s impressions.

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