PLANS for a controversial statue of a giant white horse which will loom over north Kent have been criticised.

A planning application for the Ebbsfleet Landmark, which will be by the side of the A2, was handed in to Gravesham Council last week and a decision is expected in March.

The landmark will be situated in the Springhead Park area of the Ebbsfleet Valley mini-town being built near Swanscombe and Northfleet, and residents have criticised the designs.

Bryan Read, the secretary of the Swanscombe and Greenhithe Residents Association, said: “The horse would not have been the choice of anyone living locally.

“This statue is supposed to represent this part of Kent but what has been chosen doesn’t mean anything to anyone here. They should have thought a bit harder about the history of the area.”

“We are now in the planning process so people can come forward to express their discontent and I believe they will in large numbers.”

Construction of the statue designed by artist Mark Wallinger will create up to 100 jobs, and blueprints show it will be 50m tall and 56.5m wide, and built from steel and wire mesh.

The team behind the statue, the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project (ELP) board, chose the design in February and has been preparing the planning application since.

Chairman of the board Stephen Jordan said: “This is an important step on the journey for this ambitious project. We are all pleased to have made so much progress over the past few months.”

When the ELP board launched the project in January 2008, it was expected to cost up to £2m and be finished by the London Olympics.

However, last week a board spokesman could not say how much it would cost or estimate a completion date, and in February last year Mr Jordan said “building the landmark by 2012 will be a stretch”.

Sponsors London and Continental Railways, Land Securities and Eurostar have provided £1m so far, which is enough to take the landmark through the planning phase.

However, it is expected to cost more than another £1m to build the statue, and the board spokesman said it will now “focus on the financial challenges of the project and fundraising”.

Gravesham Council leader Councillor Mike Snelling has welcomed the planning application.

He said: “While I cannot pre-judge the results of a planning application to our independent regulatory board, this is an exciting project which has the potential to put Ebbsfleet on the map.”

ELPs plans consider possible terrorist attacks on the landmark, saying the structure would survive most assaults and only “a very large explosive device at each of the four legs” would destroy it.