The art community has rallied together in a bid to stop Ilkley artists’ workshops being turned into houses.
Artists and craftsmen who occupy the two units in Back Nelson Road – part of the successful recent Ilkley Art Trail – could lose their studios if plans to convert them into two houses are approved by Bradford Council.
But fellow artists and art lovers are opposing the scheme, calling for the council to protect a “scarce and valuable asset” to the community.
Organisers of Ilkley Art Trail and artists who took part in the trail in October are among those opposing the plans to convert the Victorian buildings.
Painter and sculptor Joy Godfrey, who has been based in Back Nelson Road for more than a decade, is one of the artists who stands to lose her workshop.
“It’s been such a shock,” she said.
As well as participating in the Art Trail, she has regularly opened her studio to the public during Ilkley Summer Festival and other events.
Her sister, glass and ceramics artist Chris Bailey, lost her workshop several years ago when a planning application to convert two neighbouring workshops was approved by Bradford Council. The council previously rejected plans to convert all four buildings.
Art trail organiser Lorna Bird said: “It would be a very sad day for Ilkley if it were to lose the artists’ studios at Back Nelson Road.
“Unlike other towns our size, Ilkley has no supported workshops dedicated to artist studios, except these spaces, privately acquired by the artists.”
She says 4,000 people visited the Art Trail this year – around half the total from out of town – contributing to Ilkley’s vibrancy and economic wellbeing.
Artist Lucia Smith, who helps organise the event, was among several artists who wrote to the Gazette this week, calling on townspeople to object to the plans.
The applicant behind the plan, Mike Hanson, of Town & Country Properties (Wharfedale) Ltd, says the conversion would give the properties a new lease of life, reduce traffic congestion on Nelson Road and improve present access and parking dilemmas.
He said: “We have applied to convert these historically and culturally significant buildings and give them a new lease of life.
“Their present use is contributing to the deterioration of the area, with increased traffic, they are commercially unviable and left in their present use would deteriorate further.
“There is a defined need for first-time buyer housing in the town. This development provides an opportunity to provide further much-needed housing to the community in a sustainable location.”
The company intended to make features of the character of the buildings, he added.
Ilkley Parish Council’s Plans Committee this week recommended approval of the scheme to Bradford Council.