Olympic Games £500k steam cloud artwork in Wirral delayed

Column of steam over Wirral
Image caption The column of steam will rise above Wirral's skyline on the banks of the River Mersey

Developers of an artwork celebrating the 2012 Olympic Games in Wirral cannot guarantee it will be ready for the torch relay passing through the region.

The £500,000 publicly funded spinning column of cloud was set to rise over the Wirral estuary from 31 December as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

It has yet to get planning permission as the Civil Aviation Authority wants tests to be carried out on the column.

A spokesman for developers said they could not comment on the launch date.

The Olympic torch will pass through Merseyside on 1 June.

Plans were submitted to Wirral Council in October for the 20 metre (65 ft) wide column, commissioned by the Arts Council, which is one of 12 public art commissions across the UK for the Cultural Olympiad.

'Minded to approve'

It is planned to rise 1.2 miles (2 km) into the air above the Wirral waterfront on the Mersey, directly opposite Liverpool's World Heritage Site at the Pier Head.

The steam cloud, created by artist Anthony McCall and simply called Column, will be on the flight path to John Lennon Airport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it required testing to be done on its impact on aviation.

The CAA said it was "working with developers looking to make it happen".

David Ball, head of planning at Wirral Council, said approval could be granted "within a couple of days" once the CAA is satisfied, as council officers have delegated powers meaning it does not need to go back to the planning committee.

He said: "Subject to certain information from the Civil Aviation Authority, the council is minded to approve the application."

A spokesman for developers Projected Columns who are producing the column said: "It is not unusual for artistic projects of this size, scale and ambition take time to develop.

"We are confident that the final stages of planning permission will be complete in the coming weeks and that it will launch as part of the London 2012 Cultural Festival."

The Cultural Olympiad is an arts and culture project running alongside the London 2012 Olympics.

As part of it, 12 artists have received commissions of up to £500,000 to create new works of art inspired by the London Olympic Games across the UK.

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