LIKE Marmite, shoppers in Didcot will either love or hate The Swirl – a new sculpture in the Orchard Centre costing £85,000.

South Oxfordshire District Council says the piece of public art will be installed on top of the steps next to Sainsbury’s.

The Swirl is expected to be in place early next year once planning permission has been given but there is no news of plans for the proposed £125m extension to the shopping centre.

London-based artist Maria Rosa Kramer was commissioned to create a sculpture reminding people of where there used to be an orchard.

Ms Kramer said: “I am thrilled to be part of this fantastic project, which will hopefully excite and inspire locals and visitors alike.

“It’s a great opportunity to strengthen the identity of the Orchard Centre.”

Chamber of Commerce member Jeanette Howse, who works for Tourism South East, said: “I don’t know if I love it or hate it and I can’t say it’s fabulous.

“It’s quite Marmite and £85,000 does seem a lot to spend on art.”

President of Didcot Chamber of Commerce Jayne Reddyhoff added: “It will be a nice addition to the centre and a talking point for residents.

“We are still waiting to hear news of plans for phase two and the last thing we heard was that anchor stores were playing hardball in the negotiations.”

Town council leader Margaret Davies said she liked the look of The Swirl and said: “It will be high up on the steps so it shouldn’t get in anyone’s way.

“But the bottom end of Lower Broadway is semi-derelict and SODC leaders need to push for the application to come forward.”

Ms Kramer’s design stems from the idea of peeling and sculpting the skin of an apple.

One side of the stainless steel ribbon will be polished to a mirror finish, representing an apple’s moist flesh.

The other side will be covered with red paint, representing an apple’s skin.

The project is funded mainly from original Orchard Centre development contributions by Taylor Woodrow, SODC’s Didcot Growth Fund and Hammerson, the centre leaseholder.

Bill Service, cabinet member for leisure at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The centre marked the start of the town’s transformation, with new shops, leisure facilities and homes all coming into the area.”

The centre’s second phase, planned for land off Lower Broadway, has been delayed.