AN arts group is planning to build an iconic sculpture towering above Taunton that would put the county town on the cultural map.

The artwork, which would cost more than £1million, would be sited on top of Creechbarrow Hill, from where it would be visible from the M5 and the railway line.

Planning is in the early stages, but the landowner, the Ministry of Defence, is receptive to the idea of the feature on the UK Hydrographic Office campus.

It is all part of ArtsTaunton's Making Taunton Visible campaign to bring back the glory days to Taunton, which critics claim has stagnated in recent years.

Bosses at the charity stress that no public funds will be pumped into the project, with the intention of raising money through grants from organisations and individuals.

An ArtsTaunton spokesman said: "In order for Taunton to be visible, you have to be able to see it.

"Taunton's historic importance is well documented. But today it is know to many as no more than a junction on the motorway, not as a place to visit. It is no longer a destination town.

"ArtsTaunton wants to change that. As part of our mission to bring genuine public benefit to Taunton through culture, we're hoping to commission a new public artwork for Taunton people and the wider world.

"It will stand on Creechbarrow Hill, beside the main entrance to the town, as an iconic statement of Taunton's rich past, its aspirations today and its belief in a vibrant future."

Somerset County Gazette:

Consultations are ongoing and members of the public will be asked for their views before a shortlist of artists is drawn up and a design chosen to send out a "clear signal from this generation of Taunton's renewed ambition and self-confidence".

The structure would add a contemporary accent to Taunton's skyline of church towers and provoke a positivity about the town in much the same was as The Angel of the North has done for Gateshead.

Somerset West and Taunton Council will not be funding the artwork, but leader Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts said: "I am fully supportive of ArtsTaunton and the superb work they are doing to promote the arts and culture.

"The public artwork is a fantastic project which links to our garden town vision and will provide a focal point for Taunton that really puts the county town on the map.

"I would encourage people to get involved and get behind this exciting project which will have wider benefits for the district."

Kit Chapman, founder and director of ArtsTaunton, said: "In launching this massive consultation exercise in Taunton Deane, we are all delighted at the enthusiastic support coming from the council.

"Federica Smith-Roberts and her team clearly recognise the importance of place-making and establishing a bold identity for Somerset's county town as a destination in it own right."