A MUCH delayed project to get Compo a permanent new home in his beloved Holmfirth is back on track.
A statue of the loveable rogue made famous by late actor Bill Owen could become the centrepiece of a new Holmfirth Heritage Garden sometime next year after a Kirklees Council spokesman confirmed plans were underway.
Bill Owen, star of the hit TV series Last of the Summer Wine, died in 1999 but a bid to install a statue of him has been stalled since it was first mentioned in 2000.
A £34,000 appeal for a bronze statue was launched in 2003 but organisers, the Holme Valley Business Association, were unable to find a suitable sculptor.
Ambitious plans for a multi-themed garden at the site of the existing Victoria Gardens were submitted in April last year but nothing has been heard since.
But a spokesman for Kirklees Council’s regeneration team Steve Drury, confirmed they were "balancing their books" and making plans to get the gardens started.
He said: "It’s quite a complicated plan they’ve got. They want to create five bits of artwork to represent the heritage of Holmfirth.
"We have funding of about £200,000 to do the scheme.
"At the moment we’re just trying to balance the books and we’re working with a local company to design it. But I expect the project to be well underway in 12 months time."
Bill Owen’s son Tom Owen said: "I have desperately wanted a statue of him in the village of Holmfirth in the place and among the people that he loved so much for so long.
"I understand that there are a number of sculptors pitching for the commission.
"I have always wanted the sculptor John Adler to produce this lasting tribute to my father, not only because he is one of the best in the country but because he knew the man very well.
"Anyone with a modicum of skill can produce an image looking like Compo but that is only half of it.
"Behind that cheeky grin lies the man who was Bill Owen and it is essential that these two characters are portrayed within the piece.
"In my opinion, only someone who knew him can reproduce that special ‘it’.
"It will give so much pleasure to so many people but I would want to see a detailed drawing of the proposed sculpture if it were not to be done by John before I could give it my endorsement."
Mr Drury said the design of the statue would be put out to tender, but confirmed that Tom Owen was likely to be invited to be part of the selection group that made the final decision.
The plans for the Heritage Gardens were drawn up by artist Brendan Hesmondhalgh and not only feature Compo but other aspects of Holmfirth’s history.
They are the industrial heritage of the textile mills, the history of the infamous Holmfirth floods, farming and Bamforths, famed for its films and saucy seaside postcards.
Displays would include the lifesize Compo statue, a seating shelter made of materials from old mills, a landscaped water feature, a drystone wall and possibly a mosaic capturing the success of Bamforths.
And it’s that feature which has delighted Business Association boss Greg Christofi.
He believes it is vital to retain the history and heritage of the area and feels it can be a valuable resource for generations to come.
"It is very exciting that we have reached this stage.
"We are very pleased with the plans which have now gone in and we are optimistic that we can get the funding in place.
"We already have about £90,000 pledged for this project and have tabled a bid for £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery fund.
"When we first took on this project it was all about Compo, and the idea of a statue to commemorate him.
"But it’s about much, much more and I want us to be able to ask the children of the Holme Valley to immerse themselves in the history of the place in the years to come".
The plans would see the Heritage Garden created in the existing Victoria Gardens in Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth.
There would be five main themes captured in the new design:
Last Of The Summer Wine, with the Compo statue