NEWCASTLE’S controversial Lego men are at the centre of a fresh row over their removal.
Council leaders have finally agreed to replace the 52 concrete figures around the Haymarket after lengthy debate about their position in the city centre.
But it emerged yesterday the cost of getting rid of controversial street sculptures will be nearly £70,000.
Labour’s arts and culture spokesman, Coun Ged Bell, accused the council’s Liberal Democrat rulers of wasting money. But Lib Dem council leader Coun John Shipley said the cash would come from private developer contributions, not from council tax payers.
The artwork, called Shoulder to Shoulder but nicknamed the “Lego Men”, was installed in 1999 at a cost of £270,000 when Labour ran the council.
But the Lego Men have provoked a great deal of debate, with critics claiming they are an eyesore. Others are more forgiving and say they are a quirky feature of the city.
The figures will be replaced following a facelift of the paved area around the Haymarket Metro station. Most are already in storage. Coun Bell said the figures were actually an efficient part of the street and contributed to road safety.
He said: “Love them or loathe them, they do their job, which is to serve as a barrier between vehicles and pedestrians. They could remain and continue to do the job at zero cost. Instead, the Lib Dems are planning to spend nearly £70,000 on new guard rails. It’s an appalling waste of money.”
Coun Shipley said council tax payers would not be forced to foot the cost of removing the figures, instead getting the cash from developers. The artwork was originally designed as a water feature, but that aspect has never worked properly.
Coun Shipley said: “Retaining the Lego Men as a fully functioning water feature in line with their original artistic purpose, at an estimated cost of £100,000 over the next 10 years, would have created significant budget pressures.”
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