Artist Andy Scott has threatened legal action over a “tacky burger van” that sits in the shadow of his beloved Kelpies sculptures.
The creator of the Kelpies is demanding a burger stall based near the tourist attraction is removed claiming it has “defiled” the sculptures.
The artist, who owns the intellectual property rights to the iconic structures, claims the Artisan Grill, owned by Supreme Fast Foods, “jeopardizes the credibility of the artworks”.
The controversy surfaced after Falkirk Council refused the stall retrospective planning permission after a contract was awarded to the company by Falkirk Community Trust, which runs the site, in March this year.
In a letter to the council, Mr Scott said: “Placing a fake Bavarian burger bar at the foot of the sculptures, a tacky concession stand which even had the gall to sell “Kelpie Burgers”, shows that the management of FCT apparently have no understanding of the cultural importance of the asset they have inherited, nor of their obligations to the artist who created them.”
Councillor Craig R Martin, who believes operating partners should have more control over the site’s marketing rights, said: “The Kelpies and Helix Park is a much-loved area that everyone enjoys, but the funding for this came from the public purse and the National Lottery, while the ongoing costs to maintain the area falls to the community trust and partners. Andy needs to realise everyone should be catered for and he has to let the community benefit from his genius.”
In its refusal letter, the council said the stall was “an incongruous addition to the designed landscape and architectural character of the area”.
Helix operating partner Scottish Canals backed Mr Scott’s and the council’s position saying that “site operators did make it clear to [Supreme Fast Foods] that consent would be required and that it fell to the applicant to obtain that consent”.
Mr Scott also threatened to pull future co-operation and legal action if his wishes were not met.
He added: “If the fake Bavarian burger bar is not removed at the soonest opportunity through planning procedures I will reluctantly be forced to instruct my lawyers to take appropriate steps, and will take additional measures myself in terms of my on-going relationship with the project.”
Speaking to the Herald this week, Mr Scott said: “I must make this clear – I have no issue with Falkirk Council. My issue is with the process of allowing the fake Bavarian burger bar to have been sited in such close proximity to the Kelpies sculptures. Falkirk Council have always been great partners in the long adventure of The Kelpies.
“As for legal action, there are certain rights which artists have relating to public sculptures, as outlined in the UK Design Copyright & Patents Act of 1988, and I simply raised these within my letter to council planning department.”
Supreme Fast Foods has appealed the council’s refusal decision, but did not respond for comment.
A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said the appeal is expected to be heard by its planning review committee later next month.
FCT chief executive Maureen Campbell said: “The planning appeal process is currently live and as such, due to our very close involvement in the process, we are prevented from making any further comment on any of the interested parties involved until this process has concluded.”
Earlier this year, councillors called for a report into the copyright of the Kelpies as they believe Mr Scott has too much control over their marketing rights to the detriment of the Falkirk community.
Councillors say that, while respecting the creator’s rights to the sculptures, the local authority should have more say on opportunities that could benefit the local economy and area as a whole.
Councillors feel that as the Kelpies were paid for by a mixture of taxpayer and Lottery money, the authorities which run the attraction – Falkirk Council, Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals – should have access to them when necessary, but they don’t
The issue arose in May last year when Mr Scott angered councillors by refusing a request to tie a massive Falkirk FC scarf, knitted by local residents, around one of the sculptures to mark Falkirk FC’s appearance in the Scottish Cup Final.
The artist felt the scarf plan was “inappropriate” and says he was backed up on the decision not to mount it on the Kelpies by Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals.
The Kelpies were instead lit up gold for the final and the scarf ended up on the Steeple in High Street.
Other concerns were raised about the length of time it took to agree plans to produce miniature 3D Kelpies which could be sold to tourists at the new visitor centre.
At the time Councillor David Alexander said: “You have got to question the arrangements in place at the start when the funds were secured. The Kelpies are for the people and should belong to the people of Falkirk – they are not a private art collection.”
This week, Falkirk Council confirmed a working group is in the process of reviewing merchandising arrangements.
A spokesperson said: “The working group currently reviewing the merchandising arrangements for the Kelpies – including intellectual property rights – will next meet on August 26.
“This group, made up of Falkirk Council, Andy Scott Public Art Ltd, Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals, will look to put in place an updated formal agreement that ensures all parties views are recognised by the end of the year.”
The council also said the 3D Kelpies are “in development” but gave no other details as to when they will be available at the site’s visitor centre, however, limited edition bronze Kelpies maquettes, scale 1:100 and 1:200 are currently advertised on Mr Scott’s website.