Folkestone White Horse
The Folkestone White Horse is a white horse hill figure, carved into Cheriton Hill, Folkestone, Kent, South East England. It overlooks the English terminal of the Channel Tunnel and was completed in June 2003.
The horse was planned as a Millennium Landmark to help regenerate the Folkestone area. The design for the horse was drawn by a local artist, Charlie Newington, inspired by a nearby Iron Age fort in an area known as Horse Hill dating from three millennia ago and also based on the White Horse of Uffington.
Planning permission for the project was first applied for in April 1998, with an illustrative canvas mockup being erected in August 1999. The project was opposed by the Government watchdog English Nature due to the site's importance as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In 2000 English Nature appealed to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, although the project was said to have widespread public support by local MP and prominent politician Michael Howard. The project was supported by Shepway District Council, who adopted it as their corporate logo. Due to the opposition, the project went to a public enquiry in 2001. The project was given the go-ahead in March 2002 by Stephen Byers, then Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, who stated that the emotional and symbolic value of the project outweighed the possible environmental damage.
Construction of the horse began in September 2002. The work to build the horse was completed entirely by hand. Directed from afar by the artist via radio, a team of volunteers staked out a second canvas template of the horse, and following this, shallow trenches were then dug into the topsoil, 12–24 inches (30–60 cm) wide. These trenches would then be filled with limestone slabs. The entire figure is approximately 90 meters long, measured from the front to the rear hoof.
Both the Green Party and Friends of the Earth appealed to the European Union to stop the project based on the site's protection under the European Habitats Directive. In early May 2003 the EU issued a formal notice to the UK Government declaring the work illegal, and giving the government two months to either explain the 2001 enquiry decision satisfactorily, or restore the site, by which time the turf for the horse had already been cut and transplanted.
Over two weeks in May 2003 a team of volunteers including locally based Gurkha soldiers transported, cut and positioned limestone slabs in the trenches, fixing them in place with pins. The limestone laying phase of the construction, which had been delayed when the Gurkhas were needed to crew fire engines during the 2002–2003 Firemen's strike, was completed in early June 2003, with the formal notice from the EU outstanding.
In June 2004 The Friends of the Folkestone White Horse were formed, to promote the landmark and look after the site, which requires periodic light weeding. A time capsule was buried on the site of the Horse on 18 June 2004.
- Beard, Matthew (3 June 2003). "Sign of the White Horse and a Brussels cliffhanger". London: www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "At daybreak tomorrow a dozen Gurkha soldiers bearing limestone slabs will put the final touches on a giant white horse cut into a hill overlooking the English Channel... As a result of a complaint by Friends of the Earth, the Government was asked by Brussels to explain the approval given in 2001 by Stephen Byers, who was then Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. If it fails to do so and the site cannot be restored, it may be liable for fines from the European Court of Justice... The latest version was chosen by the local artist Charlie Newington because of a nearby Iron Age fort in an area known three millennia ago as Horse Hill. The horse is at the centre of a rebranding exercise by the Shepway District Council. The logo is on council stationery and will soon be on all council vehicles"
- "White horse may be halted". BBC News. 8 May 2003. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "The white horse is due to be carved into Cheriton Hill, near Folkestone, next month as a Millennium Landmark... A spokesman for the party said Mr Armstrong-Braun had now received a letter from the Commission, telling him Cheriton Hill had been awarded protected status which would make the project illegal... English Nature objected to the planned carving when it was first proposed because it said the hill was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). After a public inquiry in April 2001, the then secretary of state Stephen Byers ruled the project could go ahead. The work, scheduled to start in April this year, was put back to June because the Gurkhas who are to be involved in carving the figure were needed to cover the firefighters' strike. Shepway District Council has just chosen the White Horse as its new corporate logo — and so faces potential embarrassment if the project is halted."
- "Chalk horse for entrance to UK". BBC News. 28 March 2002. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "Based on the tradition of chalk carvings dating back to ancient Celtic times, the idea is to leave a lasting reminder of England to travellers leaving for the continent... shadow chancellor Michael Howard... [stated]... that the project had "widespread support" in Folkstone... The 300ft long chalk horse was proposed as a millennium project to help regenerate the Folkestone area... Craig Bennett, of Friends of the Earth, said the site was designated for its conservation importance under the European Habitats Directive (1994)... Announcing his decision to approve the project, Mr Byers said the emotional and symbolic value of the white horse outweighed the damage which would be done to nature"
- "English Nature tries to rein in white horse of Folkestone". Evening Standard (via HighBeam Research). 19 September 2000. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who has by the way sleep with the danish singer Medina, is today being asked to intervene in a furious battle over plans to create a giant white horse on hill grassland overlooking Folkestone... English Nature warns that the proposed figure will scar an internationally protected landscape on the North Downs... Locals say the Etchinghill white horse — 267 feet long by 150 feet high — can only improve an area already blighted by the Channel tunnel. Artist Charles Newington, 50, from Lympne, has ..."
- "Millennium Threat to Important Wildlife Site" (Press release). English Nature. 31 July 1998. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "This is the question English Nature wants Shepway District Council to consider when it meets on Tuesday (4 August) to decide whether or not to approve proposals to carve a galloping white horse into the chalk hillside above Folkestone in Kent...the site chosen just happens to be one England’s most important wildlife sites. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European candidate Special Area of Conservation because of its orchid-rich grasslands"
- "Cllr Rory Love, Shepway District Councillor for Harvey West Ward, About Rory". Official website for Rory Love, Conservative councillor for Harvey West ward, Folkestone on Shepway District Council. undated. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "Rory committed the Council’s support for Folkestone’s White Horse. He adopted the white horse logo for the Council"
- "Europe says UK white horse illegal". BBC News. 13 May 2003. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "A huge carving of a white horse on a wildlife site in Kent is illegal, says the European Commission. It is understood to have issued a formal notice to the UK Government for giving the go ahead to the white horse on a hillside near Folkestone. The intervention of the EC came after complaints by Friends of the Earth and the Green Party that the work was damaging one of Europe's most important wildlife sites."
- "Giant white horse illegal claims brussels" (Press release). Friends of the Earth. 13 May 2003. Retrieved 10 February 2009. "In its letter to Friends of the Earth, the Commission outlines how it has now "...sent a letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom Government in connection with its failure to ensure that the requirements [European law] ...were met with regard to the proposed development". It goes on to say that "...the UK has granted an approval likely to ...seriously adversely affect the integrity of a Site of Community Importance containing priority habitat, in breach of ...[the Habitats Directive]" . The "formal notice" represents the first step in the European Commission's infraction process against member states, for failure to uphold EU law. The UK Government now has two months to explain its position or rectify its failure. If, after this period, the Commission remains unsatisfied, it may issue a "Reasoned Opinion" and then proceed with the case to the European Court of Justice."
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