CAMPAIGNERS say they are overjoyed following the decision to keep the iconic Yomper statue at its Eastney home.
Bosses from the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) yesterday announced trustees had voted unanimously for the Yomper to remain outside the former Royal Marine barracks at the Esplanade.
It comes after a year-long public consultation gathered over 3,000 responses from across the country.
In a separate community-led petition, more than 6,000 people opposed the notion of moving the statue to the new Royal Marines Museum, due to open at the historic dockyard in 2020.
While the document gained momentum both physically and online, 70-year-old Phil Saunders, from Eastney, oversaw the hands-on side of the petition.
He said: ‘I am overjoyed. This is fantastic news for the people of Portsmouth. It’s taken a year for this decision to be made.
‘When you walk past the Yomper you feel a great sense of pride and, with certain things moving about, this is one of the few things we have left to remind us of the presences of the marines in the city.
Sheila Mackie ran the web petition to keep the Yomper at Eastney.
She said: ‘This news comes as a huge relief – I am really excited.
‘The amount of people who got behind the petition was overwhelming.
‘I would like to thank everybody for their wonderful support.
‘I’ve had people tell me they’ve laid their family members’ ashes at the foot of the Yomper.
‘That’s how important this statue is. I love it.’
A spokesman for the NMRN said: ‘Trustees voted unanimously to keep the Yomper where it is. They feel it’s the right decision to make.
‘They will now need to find a way forward to look after the statue, which remains in our collection.’
The news was welcomed by Portsmouth City Council boss, Councillor Donna Jones – who had been battling alongside the community to keep the Yomper in its prominent position.
Cllr Jones – who is a trustee at the NMRN – said: ‘This is great news for the city and a great outcome for the Yomper.
‘People pressure has won. I would like to say the NMRN has been very sympathetic towards people’s views.
The museum is now looking to secure the Yomper’s future.
As part of this, The News understands the NMRN will begin discussions with the city council to create a maintenance fund for the statue.
A spokeswoman warned that if the Yomper is vandalised, the decision to keep it in Eastney could be jeopardised.
Depicting a Royal Marine marching across the Falklands, the Yomper has been a feature in Portsmouth since it was unveiled by former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher on July 8, 1992.