A CONTROVERSIAL statue of Virginia Woolf has been given the green light - amid fears it could inspire copycat suicides.

The sculpture will pay tribute to the novelist who drowned herself in the River Ouse in Lewes after prolonged mental health problems.

Campaigners say the £50,000 monument, depicting the Mrs Dalloway writer gazing out over the River Thames, is in bad taste.

The Argus: The controversial Virginia Woolf statue by sculpture Laury Dizengremel The controversial Virginia Woolf statue by sculpture Laury Dizengremel

They fear the life-sized model of Virginia could trigger people to take their own life in the same way as the tragic author, who died in 1941.

Barry May, chairman of the Richmond Society, said the proposed placement of the riverside statue is “ill-advised, insensitive and reckless”.

“Virginia Woolf was a distinguished author, an icon for the feminist cause and a famous resident,” he said.

“She drowned herself in a river at the age of 59 after a history of mental illness which blighted her life.

“A figure reclining on a bench gazing over the water might distress anyone who knows her story and is in a vulnerable state of mind.”

The Argus: Mock-up of the controversial Virginia Woolf statue Mock-up of the controversial Virginia Woolf statue

Virginia has a number of connections to Sussex, living a cottage in the village of Rodmell for a number of years.

She was also part of the Bloomsbury Group of writers and intellectuals, which also met at Charleston Farmhouse in Firle.

The writer, known for To the Lighthouse and Orlando, also lived with her husband at Hogarth House in Richmond.

Early mock-ups of sculptor Laury Dizengremel's artwork in the London suburb, reveal a life-size Virginia resting on a bench looking towards the river.

Proponents of the statue say to “hide” it in a residential street would be offensive to the author’s legacy, citing the lack of sculptures of women in London.

It is estimated that around the 265 depicted historical figures – only 17 are of women.

Aurora Metro, the charity who has planned and fundraised for the statue, said the attempt to change the location of the artwork comes across as “an attempt to push people like her out of sight”.

“The statue’s intent is to celebrate diverse lives and encourage conversations around mental health, feminism, sexuality and gender,” a charity spokeswoman said.

“This cannot be done if the statue is tucked away on a residential street.”

More than £35,000 of the £50,000 fundraising target for the statute has been raised to date.

The memorial bench was unanimously approved by Richmond Council's environment, sustainability, culture and sports committee on Wednesday, November 17.

Conservative councillor Kate Howard said: “I think it would be very poignant to have a statue near the river as a reminder of how easily water can overcome you.”

Liberal Democrat councillor James Chard added: “It encourages discussion of mental health issues.

“People should not be defined by the existence of mental health issues that they’ve had and by the manner of their death and to move it away from the proposed location would be to allow Virginia Woolf to be defined in that way.”