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Life-size statue of businessman Kumait Ai-Ali could be removed

Council says the statue may have broken planning regulations

03 November, 2017 — By Richard Osley

The statue of Kumait Ai-Ali

A TRAVEL firm has appealed to Westminster Council not to force the removal of a life-size statue of its sales director from the steps of its offices, less than a year after he passed away.

Kumait Ai-Ali, who died last December, has been commemorated in Star Street, Paddington, with a bronze statue made by renowned sculptor Laura Lian, who has a high-profile following. Among the celebrity collectors of her work are Bill Wyman, Sharon Osborne and members of U2.

Mr Ai-Ali was sales director at IKB Travel and Tours and is credited with helping to develop it into a company with an annual turnover of more than £22million since it was founded in 1994.

But Westminster Council’s planning team says the statue contravenes development rules and could be the subject of enforcement action to remove it.

Officers said they would take action unless a full planning proposal was submitted. The department is now reviewing a “retrospective” application and has been asked to consider its public art policies.

Paperwork filed at Westminster City Hall by the firm’s planning agents, Nicholas Taylor and Associates, said: “In artistic terms, the statue is of a very high quality and was created with great care. The detailing is exceptional; the folds, buttons and fabric of the suit are particularly well-expressed despite the use of bronze.

“The sunglasses in the breast pocket are modelled directly from Mr Ai-Ali’s old pair. The creasing of the leather shoes has an authentic appearance.

“While we accept that planning permission should have been sought before the statue was erected, it is considered that the development complies with relevant council policies regarding statues, monuments and public art.”

The statue first appeared in August, eight months after Mr Al-Ali’s death. Planning officers said enforcement action was being held “in abeyance” while the new application is considered.

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