Rethink ordered over ‘Factory Girls’ refusal

The site at Harbour Sqaure in Derry's city centre. (Google Earth)

The site at Harbour Sqaure in Derry's city centre. (Google Earth)

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A planning application to install the long-awaited ‘Factory Girls Sculpture’ is set to be re-examined after the intervention of local councillors.

The move comes after c ouncillors sitting on the Planning Committee unanimously rejected a recommendation to refuse planning permission for the large city centre art project last Wednesday night.

The matter is now expected to be re-assessed by planners and returned before the same committee next month.

The Factory Girls project, which will commemorate the thousands of local women who worked in Derry’s shirt factories, has been beset with problems for over a decade, with issues ranging from difficulties with the site to uncertainty over available funding.

The sculpture features a large steel wheel, 6.2m in height and 7.5m wide and a decorative steel archway to resemble a needle panel, 5m in height and 4.2m wide. A granite stonework laid on the ground between the archway and the wheel, depicts the surface of a sewing machine.

Planners recommended permission be refused after Environment’s Agency’s Historic Buildings section claimed the alignment, orientation and scale of the artwork will have an adverse impact on the setting of listed buildings.

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue, however, proposed that the planner’s recommendation be rejected.

She said: “It’s been 12 years in the making and given that there were so many women who worked in shirt factories, and this being International Women’s Day, I feel a monument to these women who were the backbone of this city and kept many families going when there was nothing else, takes precedent over any historical building concern.”

SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings seconded the proposal, stating: “It would be remiss of us not to recognise the work the Factory Girls carried out, and they sustained Derry when there was no other work.”

Speaking about the next steps, a council spokesperson said: “When any planning application recommendation by officers to Committee is overturned, officers consider planning and legal implications, as well as suggested conditions or reasons for refusal for members depending on the circumstance.

“The case is then returned to the next available Planning Committee.”