A plan to increase the quality and quantity of public art in the Selby district has been approved by councillors.
The lack of a coherent plan has led to a “somewhat piecemeal approach” to commissioning public art, according to a council report.
It is hoped the new plan for Selby, Sherburn and Tadcaster will revitalise town centres, boost skills in the local creative sector, allow organisations to attract external funding and encourage people to feel more connected to where they are from.
It will build on the success of the Selby 950 project in 2019, when the town celebrated 950 years since its Grade I listed abbey was founded.
Lead member for health and culture Cllr Tim Grogan said there was no new money attached to the plan, but it would see the council act in an “enabling” role. Outer areas of the district, not just the town centres, will also benefit, he added.
Cllr Cliff Lunn said: “I’m pleased that we’re actually going to be looking for artwork being commissioned locally by the community and that it is going to be relevant, authentic and site-specific, because we did get into a lot of negative publicity last time with the flowerpots.”
He was referring to the installation of a series of giant flowerpots in Selby town centre in 2018. At the time, Cllr Mike Jordan branded them a “gimmick” and likened the installations to Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.
Council leader Cllr Mark Crane said he hoped the plan would avoid a repeat of the flowerpots. “I still bear the scars of that,” he added.
A council report on the plan stated: “Our audiences have told us that they want to see public art which is site-specific and which connects to the rich heritage of the district.
“High-quality public art is a strong driver for the visitor economy and can be a significant source of pride for residents.”
Cllr David Buckle said temporary installations could become talking points and attract visitors, citing the success of the puffins sculpture trail in Hull last year.
He added: “It benefits not only the tourists coming in, but also the businesses which get a knock on effect.”
Existing examples of public art in the district include the Fairey Swordfish plane sculpture in Sherburn, the Selby Medal outside the hospital and the ship’s hull sculpture on a roundabout on the Selby ring road.
Cllr Buckle added: “I was talking to a gentleman who has a bed and breakfast and he said when he set it up he expected more people would visit York, and actually when people get into this area they find so much to do that they forget about York and they actually spend their money and realise what we’ve got to offer in this area.”
Cllr Crane added: “I’m supportive of this, although I daresay there will be some naysayers, but we want to live in a place that we’re proud to live in and we want to celebrate the heritage of that place.”
Councillors also approved a linked heritage interpretation masterplan, which “sets out the key heritage stories of the district, providing content for public art which resonates with the place.”