Huge Brentwood ‘Stonehenge’ can stay for now says council

A huge concrete “Stonehenge” in Brentwood can stay for at least 18 months giving its creator time to enter it into the prestigious Turner Prize art competition.

Joe McNamara says he built the huge structure as a warning against the perils of climate change. The 53-year-old said he was delighted that the Brentwood Borough Council planning committee agreed to allow it to stay when they met to discuss the piece of art that has already been built on land in Navestock.

“It’s better than refusal,” he said after the meeting on Thursday.

Dubbed Unhenged the impressive structure has been orientated so the midday sun on the winter solstice directly strikes a central monolith pictured with the late Queen Elizabeth. The centre-piece includes SOS in Morse code a representation of an hourglass.

It has a series of LED lights that McNamara says reflects a warming planet and trenches within the lintels will eventually be planted with daffodils.

Mr McNamara said: “What it’s about is climate change. It’s Stonehenge on the outside and an hourglass in the middle.

“The monolith sits on the neck of the hourglass. And that is basically telling us that time is running out in relation to climate change.

“It is not a structure for gain. It is art. But the most serious art because if this year is anything to go by, with how warm and dry the ground is, climate change is real.”

Costing £250k to make – the concrete blocks were precast offsite and delivered by lorry – the outer 36m-in-diameter ring comprises 30 vertical four-metre pillars. These are bridged by 30 lintels each approximately 3.5 metres long by one metre in height when laid horizontally.

Within this outer circle is a semicircle of ten shorter pillars and nine horizontal lintels. The central six-metre high monolith sits on a depiction of an hourglass. A public right of way runs through it.

Despite planning officers’ indications that it should be deemed inappropriate development, planning members said it should be given a chance.

Planning member Councillor Keith Barber said: “It is huge. It’s concrete, which I don’t think is very green to be honest. But it is stunning. I really do think that I would like to know the outcome for the Turner Prize before we make a decision on whether it can be permanent.

“On paper, if it hadn’t been built I would probably would have said no. But I have seen it and I am quite impressed by it.”

Councillor Keith Parker said: “Do I like it? I don’t know. Is it something special? Yes it is. I felt it was worth bringing it to the committee. It is something totally different and it could be something of beauty to a lot of people.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter