Update regarding the statue of General Redvers Buller
Published: 1 March 2021
Elected members at Exeter City Council’s Executive examined relocating the statue of General Redvers Buller.
In the summer of 2020 The Council’s Scrutiny Task and Finish Group was asked to investigate the continued appropriateness of the statue of General Buller and his horse Biffen, on the junction of Hele Road and New North Road, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement.
It followed on from campaigns in towns and cities across the UK to reconsider the appropriateness of statues, especially those of prominent people involved in the transatlantic slave trade or advancing British imperialism and colonialism.
The statue and plinth are Grade II listed, and as such any relocation or changes made to it require formal Listed Building consent.
The Task and Finish Group met on four occasions and took written and oral submissions from a range of stakeholders.
Their work was not only an assessment of General Buller himself, or the time in which he lived, but also on the appropriateness of its current location and the role public statues have in reflecting present-day values in the city.
Three Group members voted to relocate the statue and two voted for it to remain in place.
In the Spring of 2021 Members voted in favour that
- Temporary information boards be erected near to the statue
- The Council work with the University of Exeter and Exeter Culture on an arts-based engagement project with residents, through a public art working group that will be established to consider the role of public art in Exeter; in order to create a new public art strategy for the city
- The Portfolio Holder for Culture and Communities establish a working group to develop an Anti-Racism Strategy for the Council
- Corporate Equality and Diversity Group be asked to develop a training and awareness raising programme for staff and councillors on equality impact assessments, and their role in the Council’s decision-making process.
Members agreed to formally consult with local people, via the planning process, in order that they could formally record their views regarding the possible relocation of the statue.
However, since Executive met, Government announced their wish to legislate for an ability to ‘call in’ and likely overturn any such formal planning decision about a statue, should local views be in favour of relocation.
In light of this announcement the recommendation was withdrawn.
The council is working on installing information boards in line with Historic England’s ‘retain and explain’ best practice to help people understand the statue and its history.