KELPIES sculptor Andy Scott has allowed cameras into his studio to reveal glimpses of the five-metre bear that will soon greet visitors to a Scottish town.

The giant steel artwork will be visible from rail and road when erected on the outskirts of Dunbar.

The piece is a tribute to renowned conservationist John Muir, the local hero who emigrated to the US in 1849 and is now known as the “father” of that country’s national parks.

Critics, including local community councillors, described the ursine artwork as “bizarre”, saying it resembled an advert for a safari park.

And councillors initially rejected the proposal.

But installation of the monumental piece is now just months away after planning permission was granted, following approval of conditions through Transport Scotland and final rubber-stamping by the Scottish Government.

Currently still under construction, it is expected to be in place in the spring.

Scott – the prolific public art maker whose work stands in locations including Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds – said: “It is fantastic that we have now been given the green light to create this sculpture in memory of such an influential character as John Muir, especially given today’s environmental climate.

“His role in creating national parks is well known in the United States, but sadly not so well known here and this bear sculpture will provide an opportunity to enlighten people about the man and his work.

“It is a symbol of the wilderness John Muir was such a passionate advocate of and is testament to his incredible desire to protect the natural environment.”

Billed as an “icon” for Dunbar, the bear will be situated at the eastern approach to the East Lothian town, and will be accessible via a walkway.

It will form part of the mixed-use Hallhill Development, which broke ground in 1999 and is currently home to 1000 residences.

Another 300 are under construction and a school, supermarket, shops and other business premises are planned.

Backers hope the bear will do for Dunbar what the Kelpies have done for Falkirk.

The 30-metre high equine heads were unveiled in 2014 and attracted around one million visitors within their first year alone and have become a national landmark.

Based on the heavy horses that drove the area’s industry, they are designed as a reminder of its past.

Dunbar councillor Norman Hampshire commented: “We are thrilled to mark Dunbar’s new gateway with a sculpture by one of Scotland’s most famous sculptors, Andy Scott.

“The bear is truly symbolic of Dunbar’s rich history, symbolising its most famous son, John Muir, and will fast become a well-loved local landmark like his other iconic sculptures.”

Meanwhile, Ken Ross of Hallhill Developments stated: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has approved this fantastic piece of public art and are actively engaged with Andy to get the bear erected in Dunbar in spring 2019.

“The Hallhill development has brought tremendous benefits to the area, including new much-needed homes and commercial and retail opportunities.

“This piece of art will not only contribute to the emerging identity of Dunbar’s new gateway, but has the potential to draw people into the area to find out more about John Muir.”