AN INTERNATIONAL competition to be held to find the best design for a major landmark project at the mouth of the River Mersey has led to arguments between a celebrated Merseyside artist and a local council.
Sculptor Tom Murphy had come up with a design for a massive statue named Neptune to act as Merseyside's Statue of Liberty, bringing in tourists and boosting the local economy.
His idea coincided with a move by Wirral Council to look at the possibility of a major landmark feature at the mouth of the Mersey off New Brighton.
This was three years ago, and since then the artist says he has heard nothing more about the ambitious plans, but had thought some variation on his design would be used, even moving to New Brighton as part of his preparations for the scheme.
But now Mersey Waterfront Regional Park, which is involved in funding the project, has said it wants more choice of designs, and an international list of designers, architects and sculptors is to be approached to offer suggestions.
Howard Mortimer, who heads up Wirral Council's special initiatives team, said Mr Murphy's Neptune design was "an illustrative idea" at the moment.
He said: "It was an immediate way to say it could look like this. Some people like his design a lot, some are not so keen. Something of this size is bound to have its supporters and detractors. It's only right to see if there are other designs. Let's invite interest from anyone else who has completely different ideas.
"The board are saying are there any other ideas we can look at for comparison purposes."
Mr Mortimer said discussion over funding for the scheme was still under way and when this came through they would send out special invitations to designers, architects and sculptors to put forward more ideas of what could be put in place.
He said: "They will be given six weeks for a basic concept, to be considered along with Tom Murphy's Poseidon idea."
Mr Murphy, who now has a studio in New Brighton, said: "After three years, I have heard nothing, I've been left completely in the dark. There was some talk of a competition and I wrote to them and said would they would not be able to use any of my ideas as a template. Since then, I have heard nothing.
"These things take a long time to do, and it's getting closer to 2008. I heard the funders want more choice. I said fine, but why didn't they do this three years ago.
"Everyone loves the Neptune. Local people all think it's a great idea. The Wirral needs a huge landmark to entice people here. Neptune was meant to act as a catalyst and go beyond novelty.
"I've got a feeling they are moving away from my idea, even though the NWDA said it was best idea they had seen in 10 years.
"Is this a big publicity stunt? My idea has been in the public domain for more than two years.
"But, if they are not going to go ahead with this design, then I will take it elsewhere, other coastal resorts."
Mr Murphy had called his design Neptune, but it was changed to Poseidon to avoid confusion with the developers planning to transform New Brighton.
He said: "It's a young man pulling trade and industry into the area. The trouble is now I look like a sore loser, but the truth is I don't know if we are winning or losing."