IT IS a renowned York landmark, visible for miles around.

But today The Press can reveal that a leading retailer wants to turn the famous chimney on Foss Islands Road into a giant advert.

No, April Fools' Day has not come early this year - supermarket chain Morrisons really has applied to City of York Council, requesting permission to emblazon its name down the south side of the historic structure, in metre-high letters.

Its plans were today roundly condemned by conservationists and local politicians.

Ward councillor Brian Watson said: "It's bloody ridiculous. This is, without doubt, absolutely the silliest thing I've ever heard of."

He said he expected council officers to throw out the application, without referring it to a planning committee.

He added: "I think Morrisons perhaps do not know how important it is to York.

"It would be the perfect place to have such an advertisement, but it is a listed building, so they cannot do anything like that.

"It's just a ludicrous idea. I find it very amusing."

He said he could not imagine anyone would have the "gall" to pursue such a plan if they knew the chimney were listed, but a letter submitted with the application showed Morrisons' agent, at least, knew of the building's status.

The firm's advertising slogan is "more reasons to shop at Morrisons". But Peter Brown, secretary of the York Conservation Trust came up with more reasons to reject their plans.

He said: "It's totally inappropriate to compromise the historic environment in this way, just for commercial gain, and we sincerely hope the application will be refused.

"Morrisons do not know York. They are new boys. I guess they were just testing the water, and I hope we say a resounding no to them.

"It is listed because of its landmark quality - that does not mean people can tag on banners for commercial gain."

The proposal has also angered local residents.

In a letter to The Press, Antonia Crowther, of Heworth, wrote: "The chimney is a Grade II listed building and an important part of York's industrial heritage. It should not be used to advertise a supermarket. What next - neon signs on the Minster?"

Work began in January on the new Morrisons store in Foss Islands Road, which is estimated to create 350 jobs.

The applicants' agent Peter White, of Watson Batty Architects, said the supermarket did not wish to make any comment on the application at this stage.

CARA HOUCHEN asked people in York city centre what they thought about Morrisons' plan:

Charles Holder, 22, a University of York student, said: "It will make it very unsightly. York is an old town famous for its historical features. It will be a shame if the skyline is ruined."

Liz Jefferys, of Fulford said: "I am not really bothered what they do to it, I think it is already an eyesore. However the large letters will probably make it even worse."

Ricki Spadoni, 35, of Rawcliffe, said: "What an awful idea, it will look horrible with letters down the side of it. I really don't think it will look nice. They should just leave it as it is."

Michael Storey, 71, of Stockton-on-the-Forest, said: "I own a business within the town so I spend a lot of time in York. It wouldn't bother me if they put the sign on there, it's an eyesore anyway."

Claire Hogan, 30, of Heworth, said: "Everyone will know that Morrison's is there so we don't need to see it down the side of the chimney which is ugly enough already. I think it's a terrible idea."