A PROJECT to turn St Helens’ Dream sculpture into one of Britain’s most recognisable landmarks is being undermined by criminals.
Attempts to light the 80ft statue - which sits on top of a disused slag heap in Bold - have been put on indefinite hold after thieves stole electrical cables from the site.
Now frustrated councillors believe they are unlikely to win more funding for lighting Dream, seriously hampering ambitious plans to make it a top tourist destination.
Vandals have also smashed the lighting units and thieves have made various failed attempts to locate underground cables.
The trail of destruction has left St Helens Council with a repair bill running up to £10,000. And a feasibility study undertaken last year revealed a scheme to relight Dream would cost in the region of £12,500 plus fees to outside consultants.
Coun Gareth Cross, whose Bold ward is home to Dream, says the distinctive sculpture has the potential to rival the Angel of the North, given the right backing.
“Because it is a bit isolated there have been problems with thefts of cables,” he said, “and the chances are that because of that we are not likely to get funding to try again.”
Dream was briefly lit at night in June last year for just a few weeks before vandals struck.
And a council report has since concluded the £12,500 refurbishment fee is poor value given the likelihood of vandals striking again.
Dream sculptor, artist Jaume Plensa, always envisaged his creation would eventually be lit up at night but a series of funding setbacks have so far prevented his vision becoming reality.
Lack of money and disagreements over forestry conservation, meanwhile, are thought be behind delays axing some of the trees at the top of the Dream hill which obscure many peoples’ view of the artwork.
Coun Cross added: “People in St Helens have a real affection for Dream but there’s sometimes a wrong perception - particularly among people from outside the town - that it’s associated with crime and particularly anti-social behaviour.
“While clearly there are issues, it is nothing like the perception you sometimes encounter and we’d welcome the chance to challenge these misconceptions.”
Dream is the brainchild of a group of former Bold colliery miners who campaigned to win funding for the project from a Channel Four arts programme.
They picked Jaume Plensa, a Spanish artist with a reputation for producing challenging pieces of public art, to turn their vision into reality.
However, despite the problems with vandals and graffiti, Dream is regarded with real affection in St Helens and regularly attracts visitors from across the region.