A proposal to move the statue of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst from near the Houses of Parliament to the private Regent’s University London in Regent’s Park has been withdrawn after widespread anger.
The statue, funded by suffragettes, was unveiled in Victoria Tower Gardens near the House of Lords by the former prime minister Stanley Baldwin in 1930. It was later moved to its current location.
The Emmeline Pankhurst Trust, a non-profit group led by the former Conservative MP Sir Neil Thorne, submitted a proposal in July to “carefully dismantle” the existing statue and move it elsewhere. The planning application described the current location as somewhat hidden.
The proposal resulted in a backlash. Caroline Criado Perez, who led a successful campaign to have a statue of Millicent Fawcett erected in Parliament Square, called the proposed move “an act of vandalism against women’s history”. The planning application received more than 890 comments, almost all of which were critical.
Westminster city council confirmed on Monday that the application had been withdrawn.Welcoming the decision, Criado Perez said: “It did come as a huge surprise, but I’m absolutely delighted. It was incredibly clear, you just had to take a brief look at the history of the statue to realise that the location was incredibly significant.
“It was a location specifically chosen by the suffragettes. I felt very strongly that their wishes should be respected and that it was completely wrong to move the statue to the grounds of a private college.”
The outrage over the application surprised Thorne. He told the Telegraph the proposed new site would place the statue in a more prominent location. The grounds of the private college are floodlit and open to the public 24 hours a day.
Criado Perez said: “[Thorne] has hopefully listened to the concerns of people who are saying it’s really not a good idea to just trample all over women’s history and the wishes of the suffragettes. I hope that this is the end to moving the Emmeline Pankhurst statue from where she belongs.”
Lucy Peck of the Thorney Island Society, a conservation group, said: “We think this is the right decision. The location of the statue there, next to parliament, is the correct place.
“We are in sympathy with the feeling that the sculpture was ignored and overshadowed in its present location, but that can be easily remedied by attention to the planting around it.”
Alison McGovern, the chairwoman of the House of Commons works of art committee, said: “I am delighted that the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst will remain in its rightful place outside parliament, the place she campaigned for women to enter.
“There are so few images of women in Westminster as it stands, and removing hers would have been a blow to women’s representation and the history of the campaign for universal suffrage.”