WE welcome the news that Winchester Cathedral has this week dropped its proposal for a statue of Jane Austen in the Cathedral Close.

The Dean and Chapter had hoped to raise £250,000 for a piece that celebrated the author who died in nearby College Street in 1817.

The statue was to be by sculptor Martin Jennings, well-known for his highly-regarded figures of poets John Betjeman at St Pancras railway station in London and Philip Larkin in Hull.

The city and county councils had both pledged £25,000 of public money.

A very low-key fundraising appeal was launched last December but it sparked a furious reaction from local people and the issue has filled the Chronicle’s letters pages for nearly two months. Critics pointed out that her local links were tenuous (she only lived in the city for a few weeks before her death). One letter writer summed up the statue as a “rampant busty kitsch effigy.”

But if this newspaper was trenchant in its criticism of the scheme we do now congratulate the Dean and Chapter for bowing to the public mood and reassessing the project.

One obviously has sympathy for Mr Jennings who will have expended a lot of time and effort on the figure. It is a shame that his brief appears to have been such that his creation was so unsuited to The Close.

Setting aside the eye-wateringly high financial cost, the Chronicle has to agree.

The statue is in the wrong place. The Cathedral Close is one of our national treasures, an open space that has little changed in 500 years. It has gravitas and calm. The Mondrian-inspired metal sculpture that stood on the statue spot for several years was not to everyone’s taste but it was a serious work (about the crucifixion) in a serious place. A windswept Jane seemingly stepping from the front page of a Mills and Boon novel is not, and it pains the Chronicle to say it.

It is also unnecessary. She only lived here a few weeks and there is a beautifully understated memorial in the cathedral. That should be enough.