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Poole Streetscape Manual

Public Art in Poole

Poole already possesses a number of significant public art commissions. In 1991, Sea Music, a sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro, was sited on the quayside in the Old Town. Caro was a patron of Poole Arts Council, a voluntary group which coordinated the project. Caro donated his working time to the project, the material costs of which were entirely privately sponsored by local businesses. The sculpture proved somewhat contentious locally. It was refurbished in 2000.

In recent years, Poole has maintained its commitment to commissioning works by artists and makers with international reputations. As part of its major lottery-funded refurbishment in 2002-3, Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts, the largest arts centre outside London, commissioned integrated new art works costing £400,000, including exterior works by Peter Freeman and Sally Freshwater, a bar by Danny Lane, and a clock by Andy Plant. Elsewhere in Poole, recent public art commissions include a stone sculpture by Tony Cragg in the courtyard of the Study Gallery on the campus of Bournemouth & Poole College (2000), and Parallel Plotter (2003) by Simon Watkinson, commissioned by the Environment Agency and BP and incorporated into Poole 's new sea defence wall.

Other Strategies for Public Art in Poole

The Streetscape Manual follows up the environmental Masterplan for Poole produced by Terence O'Rourke plc in 2002. It also comprises Supplementary Planning Guidance to the Poole Local Plan. The Poole Local Plan sets out the land use strategy for the development of Poole up to 2011. The plan envisions the Central area of the town as being a thriving commercial, social and cultural centre, utilising its waterfront setting and historic environment to best advantage, and embracing sustainability as a watchword in creating a location of quality in which people live, work, and take leisure.

A place for public art within the environmental regeneration plans for Poole was established from the outset. The Supplementary Planning Guidance (2002) produced to accompany the Poole Bridge Regeneration Initiative proposal included the following statement:

'The involvement of high calibre artists will be encouraged and should be integrated into design teams from the earliest possible stage of project planning to add creativity and richness. Public art should encourage participation, provoke debate, affect the function and usefulness of the public realm and individual developments, stir the emotions, present information, have local relevance and support the community's aspirations. The widest range of techniques should be employed, including artists in residence and on design teams, free standing artworks, artist designed landscapes, digital technologies, artists' lightworks, and signage and temporary projects.'

The Public Art Strategy and the Percent for Art Strategy (with its accompanying Supplementary Planning Guidance Planning Pack), produced by the Arts Development section of Poole's Cultural Services, are two further parallel strands of policy serving to foster the realisation of art commissions in the public realm in Poole.

In common with many local authorities which responded to the Arts Council's 1989 campaign on behalf of the 'percent for art' principle, The Borough of Poole has operated a statutory 'percent for art' requirement since 1998. The Percent for Art Strategy Planning Pack provides a detailed guide for officers and developers to the implementation of the statutory policy that was formerly applied only on an ad hoc basis.

The Borough of Poole's Public Art Strategy (subtitled Improving the quality of design for the People of Poole ) builds upon and develops the Percent for Art Strategy, and supports the Poole Masterplan. This strategy document employs a wide ranging definition of Public Art, taking on board such things as time-based and temporary commissions, and the employment of artists as consultants on design teams. Like many similar local authority strategies it identifies the potential benefits of Public Art for Poole . But the strategy arrives at an 'ambitious but achievable vision for public art in Poole' via the identification of shortcomings in the Borough's prior engagement with the commissioning of public art, and with the role of public art within the central area regeneration project. These factors include the following:

  • 'Many different service units and organisations have been involved in the purchase and commissioning of public art within the borough, and consequently the development of public art has tended to be piecemeal and opportunistic with no overview or coherent plan.'
  • 'As there has been no qualified professional expertise or 'curator' of the public art works, or a Council Art Collections Policy in the past, the result is a 'collection' that contains a number of important works but is varied in quality. The future development of public art in the Borough needs to be carefully coordinated to ensure that any new projects and artworks are of high quality and bring the maximum benefits to the people of Poole.'
  • 'Although there is an interest in public art and its possibilitiesÖ the knowledge of current process and practice is insufficient to sustain the potential that Poole's immediate future offers.'
  • 'At present the Council's Percent for Art Policy is unevenly implemented without clear understanding of what the real benefits can be and for whom.' 'Little has been done to implement this policy, outside the actions of some dedicated planning officers.'
  • 'The Council has no designated budget for new public art projects.' Any new public art inititiatives will therefore be dependent on funds from other sources, including Percent for Art and Planning Gain on new building schemes by private developers, sponsorship and grant-aid from other bodies, Percent for Art funding for the Council's own new building and landscaping, and funding from existing Council budgets (e.g. lighting, street furniture).
  • 'Whilst a number of Council service units have an interest in the development of Public ArtÖ no one officer has the capacity, skills or knowledge to lead or effectively manage a public art programme and service.'

With regard to the central area regeneration and new harbour crossing project, the document observes that "the built environment and infrastructure that results from this programme must be exemplary if it is to provide the maximum benefit to everyone in Poole. The role that artists have to play in this process cannot be overstated." While the strategy document acknowledges that the Borough has addressed the issue of ensuring that public art is considered within the planning of a new scheme, it nevertheless feels that the potential role of public art within the Full Sail Ahead renewal project 'remains untested until major development opportunities come forward as planning applications, and the details of how they will be tested and implemented remains unclear'. In principle, however, the document affirms that the project 'offers the opportunity for exemplary Council-led public art initiatives'. A number of actions are proposed by the strategy to address these issues.

A Cultural Plan for Poole (called Whatever Floats Your Boat) published in 2002, was intended to provide 'a context and framework for other strategies and plans in Poole ', and identified the development of a public art policy as part of its Action Plan.

The Poole Local Plan is available on line in the Environment section of Borough of Poole website -

Whatever Floats Your Boat - A Cultural Plan for Poole and Poole's Public Arts Strategy are available online in the Culture and Community Service section of the Borough of Poole website -

The Public Arts Strategy and the Supplementary Planning Guidance on Public Art are available in the Policies and Guidance section of Public Art Online - please follow this link.

© Copyright David Briers, 2005.