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Buller statue U-turn

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021 7:30am

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

General Buller statue in Exeter (Image: Daniel Clark)

Relocation plans might not go-ahead

Plans that could have seen the possible relocation of Exeter’s General Buller Statue are set to be withdrawn.

The statue of General Sir Redvers Buller and his horse Biffen stands on the corner of New North Road and Hele Road outside the entrance to Exeter College and was erected back in 1905.

Exeter City Council’s executive in January unanimously agreed that without prejudice to a final decision on the matter, an application should be made for listing building consent for the relocation of the statue to an alternative location.

But when they meet on Tuesday, February 9, they are being recommended to overturn the decision that would have started the process and for a consultation on the possible relocation of the statue.

The report states that recent comments by Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, make it clear such applications are unlikely to be successful.

The Government recently revealed plans for a new law on cultural and historic heritage which will “make clear that historic monuments should be retained and explained’.  It would give the Secretary of State power to call in any application and ensure the law is followed.

Cllr Phil Bialyk, leader of the council, said: “In light of the comments by the Secretary of State my Executive will be asked to amend the recommendations, and we will not be submitting a planning application to relocate the Buller statue.

“But I must stress that we will be addressing the issues which first brought this to the attention of many councillors.

“There are a number of important recommendations about equality and diversity in our city that we will be taking forward. The Council should look to make sure we are doing all we can to be aware of the particular images and messages that public art and monuments may express, and strive to make these as representative of our inclusive and diverse communities as possible.”

Members of the Council’s Executive will discuss the new report on Tuesday, February 9, although the agenda documents have not yet been published on the council’s website.

Last year, a review into the ‘continued appropriateness’ of the was launched due to the army general’s connection to the British Empire and because of the names carved on the plinth of colonial campaigns which sought to advance British imperialist interests in other countries.

That review concluded that without prejudice to a final decision on the matter, an application should be made for listing building consent for the relocation of the statue to an alternative location.

A full public consultation would have taken place over the future of the Buller statue before a final decision would be made by the full council at a later date, but councillors are now recommended to U-turn on the proposals.

The statue was paid for by money raised by the people of Devon and unveiled on ‘Buller Day’ in 1905.

It is currently situated on land owned by Devon County Council, with the monument itself maintained by the city council.

Buller served in Canada, China and most famously in South Africa in the Zulu Wars. It was here an operation led by him went wrong and he had to withdraw under intense fire.

Some have alleged that he was partly responsible for the creation of British “concentration camps” where thousands of people died.

The statue of Buller on his horse has previously been vandalism, within 2019 an anarchist symbol and the word “scum” have been daubed on the statue, while banners saying ‘wanting for war crimes’ had also been hung on it.

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