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Queen's rep declines sculpture judge role

PUBLISHED: 18:08 10 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:04 23 August 2010

THE QUEEN S representative in Kent declined to be head judge of a 150ft Angel of the South competition because it was too controversial. Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Allan Willett, refused an invitation to chair the selection panel that will choose a winne

THE QUEEN'S representative in Kent declined to be head judge of a 150ft Angel of the South competition because it was "too controversial."

Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Allan Willett, refused an invitation to chair the selection panel that will choose a winner for the £2 million Ebbsfleet Landmark.

The decision was made six months ago despite a widespread belief that he is in charge of a panel that must select from five designs, including one of a white horse by Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.

One of the project's key sponsors, London and Continental Railways, claim Allan Willett declined because he could not devote the time.

However, a spokesman for the Lord Lieutenant said: "It was because the project was likely to become politically controversial, which it has, it's not a question of him not having the time.

"As the Queen's representative he simply can not get involved in controversial matters. Kent County Council's involvement shows it has got into the political arena.

"He was invited to meet the organisers earlier this year to discuss what part he could play in the project. He thought about it but decided against it. If people still believe he is head judge that is a matter for the organisers to 'untell' people. Allan Willett has definitely not chaired any meeting as head of the selection panel." The selection panel, that will make a final decision on the winning sculpture later this year, is chaired by Victoria Pomery, director of the Turner Contemporary.

Other judges include heads from Land Securities, Eurostar and property division of LCR, as well as curators Futurecity.

Controversy has surrounded the competition after campaigners, including Kent President of Campaign to Protect Rural England, Graham Clarke, claimed the designs have been forced on the county's residents.Despite an exhibition at Bluewater giving residents a chance to vote for their favourite design, many complained that there was not enough choice.

Gravesend residents, Geoff and Janet Dunlop visited the exhibition before it closed last month.

Mr Dunlop said: "We were appalled at the lack of choice. I voiced my opinion and was told these are it, decision made.

"I haven't spoken to one person who agrees that any are appropriate and most

say why not the 'lnvicta' horse."

Deputy leader of Kent County Council, Alex King, is backing the council's push for Wallinger's design to be adapted to make the classic Kent Invicta horse rearing up.

KCC deputy leader Alex King said: "I've spoken with the sponsors and they want to see the widest possible debate.

"This is a major opportunity on a landmark site to make a statement about Kent at the doorway to Europe.

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