Rare fungi forces estate to scrap exhibition of Gormley's iron men

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An exhibition of Antony Gormley sculptures in the gardens of Chatsworth House has been scrapped after ecologists claimed it could damage rare fungi in the stately home's lawns.

Delivery of the 100 life-size iron figures of the artist's naked body that make up the installation Time Horizon had already begun when the estate withdrew its planning application after experts from the Peak District National Park Authority raised an objection.

The move will come as a disappointment to many, as this summer's Chatsworth display, due to open on 1 May, would have been the installation's only appearance in the UK.

It will also be a blow to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who are known for their interest in modern art and have continued a 300-year tradition of displaying sculpture in Chatsworth's 105-acre park and gardens. The Duke said: "I would like to thank all those who have been involved in this unique and exciting project, especially Antony Gormley and his studio, the team at Chatsworth and the Landscape Agency, for the tremendous amount of work they have undertaken in preparation for this application, and am sorry that this work will not be seen in Derbyshire in 2008."

Gormley, the internationally-acclaimed creator of the Angel of the North, was unavailable for comment last night.

Time Horizon was to consist of 86 of the iron figures arranged on the garden's central lawn, and the remaining 14 spread around the wider park, each mounted at the same height above sea level despite the rolling terrain. This would have required some to be raised on concrete plinths of varying heights and others to be partially buried.

The installation was displayed two years ago on the archaeological site of Scolacium in Italy and next year will move to the Austrian Alps, after which there are no further plans to show it.

The Chatsworth House Trust applied for planning permission in January, submitting comprehensive reports into the installation's likely impact on the grounds to the National Park Authority. Planning officers raised only one objection – the ecological impact on the lawns – prompting Chatsworth to withdraw its application on Tuesday.

Chatsworth House said: "The National Park Authority have acknowledged that all areas of our application have been recommended for approval by their officers, with the exception of the ecology.

"The National Park ecologists consider that the lawns in the garden are of national importance for their mycology (fungi), and that this might be negatively impacted by the temporary installation of this work. This view differs from our own independent and expert research. In view of the officers' recommendation for refusal, on these ecological grounds alone, we have decided, with great regret, to withdraw the application."