AN illuminated sculpture of one of Britain’s most iconic birds is temporarily leaving its perch on the banks of the River Wear to allow essential utilities works to be undertaken.

Located on the Watergate Riverside, Heron was the third permanent piece to be installed in Durham as part of the Lumiere Festival legacy programme and has become a much-loved landmark.

To ensure the popular artwork continues to light up the city for years to come, Durham County Council is putting Heron into storage temporarily to keep it safe while Northumbrian Water carries out essential sewerage works.

The water company needs to install a vital piece of equipment on land next to Heron as part of major sewer improvement scheme in Durham.

The work will upgrade the area’s sewer network, aimed at further protecting the environment and customers’ homes.

Northumbrian Water and the council have carried out various assessments to identify alternative locations for the equipment.

However, due to the existing infrastructure network, the land next to Heron is the only feasible option. The equipment will be underground and accessed via a service manhole, so with careful landscaping it will not detract from the beauty of the sculpture.

The works, which have begun, are expected to take 16 weeks. The sculpture itself will be removed during the second week of August to prevent it being damaged.

As well as covering the costs for the removal and reinstatement of Heron, Northumbrian Water will also fund some enhanced landscaping to complement the sculpture.

The council is now working with Lumiere producers Artichoke to agree an appropriate landscaping design for the site.

The chosen design will complement landscaping that is also being commissioned for the land next to Milburngate Bridge and behind the Indoor Market. This will include a sculptural waymarking sign created by local sculptor Graeme Hopper.

Councillor Joy Allen, the council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “Heron has become a much-loved addition to Durham’s riverbanks and that is why we feel it is important to store it away safely while these essential works takes place.

"We have been working closely with Northumbrian Water and Artichoke to make these arrangements and to come up with designs for new landscaping.

“This will not only display Heron to its best advantage but will help will to make the area an even more attractive place for residents and visitors, enticing more people to the city centre and boosting our economy.”

David Groark, Northumbrian Water’s project manager, said: “The overall aim of the project is to protect the environment and customers’ homes, and it’s fantastic to have this opportunity to work with Durham County Council to enhance the landscape around Heron at the same time.

"We are very passionate about wildlife, but this is something a bit different, though it will be nonetheless very rewarding to know that, when Heron returns from its temporary migration, we will have played a part in improving its habitat.”

Created by artist, Jon Voss, Heron was first shown at Lumiere in 2017 and celebrates the beauty of nature in the heart of the city.

It is now one of four permanent Lumiere artworks that Banks Community Fund has supported in the city centre, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the magic of the UK’s leading light festival throughout the year.

Kate Harvey, senior producer at Artichoke, said: “Heron is a fragile and beautiful light sculpture and it is right that it is moved to safety while these essential works are carried out. Artichoke is working closely with Durham County Council and Northumbrian Water to agree a landscape design that will enhance the location for the artwork when is returned to the riverbank later this year”.