Do my eyes deceive me … or is that a statue of Dominic Cummings?

Best April Fool – Owl?

Barnard Castle plans life-sized bronze of Boris Johnson’s former adviser after infamous trip ‘to test eyesight’ put town on map

By Gordon Rayner 1 April 2021www.telegraph.co.uk 

In the list of Britain’s top tourist attractions, it might struggle to rival the likes of Buckingham Palace or the Eden Project.

But Dominic Cummings’ notorious lockdown-busting visit to Barnard Castle could soon be commemorated with a statue in the historic market town, The Telegraph has learned.

Plans have been submitted to the local council for a life-sized bronze of Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, who drove to the beauty spot last April in what he claimed was a bid to test his eyesight.

Local tourist chiefs argue that the town should capitalise on the infamy Mr Cummings brought it, having seen visitor numbers increase once lockdown was lifted last summer.

Shopkeepers in the town say the question they are most commonly asked by visitors is “where is the place that Dominic Cummings tested his eyesight?” and many would like to be able to point tourists to a plaque or statue marking the exact spot by the town’s riverside.

What the proposed Barnard Castle statue of Dominic Cummings could look like, complete with carrier bag

What the proposed Barnard Castle statue of Dominic Cummings could look like, complete with carrier bag Credit: Paul Grover/for the Telegraph

A planning application submitted by Olaf Priol, a member of the local historic society, requests permission for a 5ft 11in bronze on a pyrite plinth, depicting Mr Cummings wearing a trademark hoodie and jeans, carrying a set of car keys and “squinting into the distance, adjusting his spectacles with his right hand”.

The plans are likely to prove controversial as a local by-law states that statues in the town can only depict “deceased historic figures” who have “contributed to the common good”.

However, the council has the power to set aside the by-law if someone has made an “exceptional contribution” to the national and international profile of Barnard Castle.

Supporters of the plan are likely to point out that Mr Cummings’ visit led to Barnard Castle being name-checked in newspapers around the world.

Last summer, the then mayor of the town, which is 30 miles from Mr Cummings’ parents’ home in Durham, said the huge media coverage of the visit had “done us good in the sense that it has put us on the map”.

Beer firm BrewDog even made a special IPA called Barnard Castle Eye Test, which sold more than 800,000 cans.

Barnard Castle received another boost this week when Boris Johnson announced a new facility to “fill and finish” Covid-19 vaccines will be opened in the town. He later joked to MPs that Mr Cummings had been “scouting out the complex” during his Easter Saturday visit last year.

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