A LARGER-than-life sculpture of a shepherd is facing opposition on health grounds because he is depicted smoking a pipe.

The artwork, of a 7ft-high shepherd, his dog, and a sheep, due to be installed in Hawes, in upper Wensleydale town this week, could be bad for the image of the Yorkshire Dales market town, where the economy is dependent on the tourism industry the parish council has been told.

The shepherd, sculpted from metal, is depicted smoking a pipe and will be placed on the enclosure at Town Foot, opposite the Central Dales Medical Practice, in Hawes, in upper Wensleydale.

It replaces an older, wooden, shepherd which had rotted and been knocked over by revellers.

Ruth Annison, a resident of Askrigg and joint owner of Outhwaites Ropemakers in Hawes, said “serious concerns” had been raised by a number of people about the message this sent out.

“A shepherd with a pipe, especially being right outside the medical centre, is not a good image.

“To be seen to be advertising smoking in this day and age is really bad PR for the town,” said Mrs Annison.

Councillor John Blackie, chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside parish council, said she was the only person who had objected and the pipe would not be removed.

But Mrs Annison said she was not the only objector.

“Members should be aware that this issue has been raised elsewhere and other people have expressed their concerns about it,” she said.

Resident Rob Ward pointed out that although the shepherd had a pipe, there was no smoke and Councillor Stewart Hunter said it was a traditional image and a lot of shepherds used to smoke pipes.

Mrs Annison said: “That is not the point. You may all mock me and laugh, and think it’s a trivial issue, but it’s not. It is outside the doctors’ surgery and that is not good.”

Councillor Albert Sunter said he did not understand the objection.

“If it had been a cigarette I could have understood it, but I honestly can’t remember when I last saw anybody smoking a pipe,” he said.

Mr Ward said the sculpture had been created by a man calling himself Glen, Lord Lincoln. He owned a metal working company, had a holiday cottage in Hawes, and was donating it free of charge to the town.

All he had requested in return was a plaque. Members agreed that a letter of thanks should be sent to him.