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Travel firm set to appeal ban on statue of employee

Council says same rules apply for Kumait Al-Ali and Margaret Thatcher statues

19 January, 2018 — By Robbie Harb

The statue of Kumait Al-Ali

A TRAVEL business is preparing to launch an appeal after the council ordered the removal of a statue of one of its best-loved employees.

The bronze of Kumait Al-Ali, who worked as the international sales director for IKB Travel and Tours, was erected outside the Star Street office’s front door after he died unexpectedly from gallstones in December 2016.

Abir Burhan, whose family set the Paddington company up, said: “Kumait came to the UK when he was 20, and my family took him in. He’s worked for our company for two decades and helped grow it to where it is now.

“He was very important to us: a lovely, kind and good person, who was well known to his local community. I know it seems strange, but we wanted to remember him by building a statue for him at his favourite place – the office where he worked.”

According to Mr Burhan, the statue had been criticised because it is facing the street. But he explained that this was done so that it could face Mecca, an important custom in Islamic culture.

Westminster Council rejected a retrospective planning application, referring to a rule that bans statues being set up until the subject has been dead for at least 10 years.

The planning report said that “emotional investment” should not override “aesthetic design or good planning”.

Mr Burhan is appealing against the decision, arguing that the rules do not apply to his statue because it is “100 per cent on private land”.

Meanwhile, a planning application to erect a statue of Margaret Thatcher on the west side of Parliament Square has been revised following concerns that it would be vandalised.

The new plans propose that the statue be placed on a four-metre-high granite plinth, designed “to minimise any ledges or other protuberances that could be used as climbing aids”.

The plinth will also have sockets which could be used to quickly board the statue up “during demonstrations or other potentially sensitive times”.

The statue falls into Westminster Council’s “Monument Saturation Zone”, which prohibits new statues and monuments in most areas of Whitehall and St James’s.

It would also contravene Westminster rule that “no statues or memorials should be erected before 10 years have elapsed from the death of the individual” – Mrs Thatcher died in 2013.

The planning application requests that the statue be exempted from both rules.

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