A HUGE sculpture honouring the former RAF Burtonwood airbase is being planned along the side of the M62.

Plans have been submitted to Warrington Borough Council’s planning department for permission to build the monument at Omega.

The sculpture – which at 22.8 metres would be larger than the Angel of the North near Newcastle – is earmarked for the centre point of Mountpark roundabout, within Omega South on Skyline Drive next to the M62.

The highlight of the art piece would be an iconic WWII American aircraft, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which would be illuminated and bathed in WW2 searchlights at night.

The many warehouses and homes in the Omega vicinity – and the M62 itself – were built on land formerly occupied by Burtonwood airbase.

RAF Burtonwood opened in 1939, just in time for the crucial Battle of Britain, and the United States Army Air Force, which took over in 1942, played a vital support role for the war in Europe.

The site also played a vital role in the Berlin Airlift of 1948 and through the era of the Cold War.

In 1967 Burtonwood became the largest US base in Europe, having expanded to cover a 15-mile site between 1948 and 1958, but once the US Army pulled out of the base in 1993, its fate was effectively sealed.

Plans for the sculpture state: “The installation will take the form of a significant sculpture called ‘Bolt of Lightning’ – a fitting landmark structure which will be visible from afar, reflecting and celebrating the site’s military heritage.

“The Omega development, as a whole, is now a major part of Warrington’s economic landscape and before it, RAF Burtonwood air base had a huge impact on the area’s social, employment and cultural character.

“As such, Omega Warrington has always been committed to marrying up the two past and future elements and celebrating this through a blended identity for the site and the local area.

Designs of how the RAF Burtonwood sclupture would look if built

Designs of how the RAF Burtonwood sclupture would look if built

“To date, this has been done through road and place names (Lockheed Road, Skyline Drive, Borsodi Boulevard and Airlift Hill) and through heritage preservation and memorials (Pickett-Hamilton Fort and Airlift Hill memorial bench).

“However, the long-term vision has always been to consolidate the above approach with something iconic – a major piece of public art, as a centrepiece of sorts, that would become a recognisable symbol of this important site and the local pride associated with its heritage.”

Bolt of Lightning has been designed by professional artist, sculptor and teacher, Peter Naylor, who specialises in public sculptures and memorials.

He said: “In terms of iconic WWII American aircraft, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning is arguably top of the list.

“The ‘twin boom’ design makes it instantly recognisable. Many people could confuse a Spitfire with a Hurricane but it is impossible to mistake the P-38 Lightning for any other aircraft.

“Coupled with the fact that Burtonwood was the key location in Europe for the maintenance of these aircraft, it means that it is perfect that a design based on the P-38 Lightning should act as the pivotal focus of a sculpture at Omega to commemorate this historic site.”

Aldon Ferguson, president of RAF Burtonwood Association, added: “The concept of Bolt of Lightning is to remember the impact of American forces on Warrington, all local towns and villages, the ongoing inter-relationship between the British and Americans and the introduction of American culture.

“To address the 50-plus years of the link with the USA, a substantial, commanding memorial is very appropriate.

“Its location needs to be dominant and highly visible from the M62 motorway – the original main runway – as a permanent and graphic link to the glorious history of the site and its impact on NW England.”

Documents state that there are enough examples around the UK and international motorway networks, where major installations have been in place for a number of years, and where there are no increased accident statistics to support the argument that such sculptures are a distraction to drivers.

Moreover, the material chosen for the sculpture is such that is has very little reflective quality and will not create significant enough glare on sunny days to cause an issue.