Council says People’s Memorial can stay

Willie Goldfinch with the monument he has erected on the beach near Tangiers Road, Portsmotuh. He has dedicated the monument in memory of those who been killed during the war in afghanistan.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (093923-124)
Willie Goldfinch with the monument he has erected on the beach near Tangiers Road, Portsmotuh. He has dedicated the monument in memory of those who been killed during the war in afghanistan. Picture: Allan Hutchings (093923-124)

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THE popular People’s Memorial will be allowed to stay where it is – as long as its creator keeps the area free of rats.

Large numbers of rodents were reported earlier this year around a cairn of stones, off Eastern Road, by Langstone Harbour, which was erected as a tribute to servicemen and women by author Wilfie Cummings.

The monument was built without planning permission in 2009, but following discussions with its creator Portsmouth City Council agreed not to remove it as long as it did not grow any bigger.

But in February this year a pest control officer had to repeatedly visit the site because a ‘large number’ of rats had been attracted by fallen bird food from Mr Cummings’s dove cotes.

Most of them have now been removed and the authority has confirmed that – despite also having received letters, emails and phone calls from members of the public objecting to the memorial – it will not remove it.

In a report officers wrote: ‘The memorial has attracted support from both local visitors and a wider audience, with articles and information relating to the People’s Memorial having been made available in the local press, on social networking sites and a dedicated website.

‘No permission was sought from Portsmouth City Council or Langstone Harbour Board prior to the construction of the memorial by Mr Cummings and this unauthorised encroachment on Milton Common and foreshore has become the most significant point of contention with members of the public.

It added: ‘Should the memorial be permitted to remain, there is a requirement on the city council to ensure that the site does not pose any safety risk to members of the public.’

Conditions on the memorial remaining include Mr Cummings taking ‘all reasonable precautions’ to stop it attracting rats, as well as making sure the structure is safe from erosion.

Speaking about why he decided to erect the memorial, Mr Cummings said it was a reminder of the horrors of war.

He said: ‘It’s seen by thousands of people every single day as they drive past. It’s a tribute, but it also gives the general public their own wee place to go and contemplate.

‘I did it because I’m passionate about it. It’s not a glorification of war.

‘It reminds people about the horrific savagery of war, and gets them to at least stop and think about the people being killed in Afghanistan.

‘And if you’re going to make heroes, don’t make them millionaire footballers.’

When The News originally carried a story about the cairn in 2009, Wilfie used his pseudonym Willie Goldfinch.