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Shock in Otley as historic Maypole is removed
4:50pm Thursday 26th June 2014 in News
Otley's iconic Maypole has been taken down due to safety fears - days before the Tour de France.
The action, carried out by Leeds City Council officers last Friday [JUN 20] following an inspection of the Tour's route, has sparked outrage in the town.
The historic landmark on Manchester Square, which would have been passed directly by the race's riders, was removed after a check confirmed it was rotten and posed an "immediate danger to the public"*.
Otley's MP and ward councillors however, who were given no notice, are demanding that a replacement be installed before the Tour arrives on Saturday, July 5.
Otley Town Council were also only notified on the day. Leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) said: "We're obviously extremely disappointed because the Maypole is a major landmark, and if it's missing for the Tour that will
be very disappointing for everybody.
"It's very regrettable but on safety grounds the officers didn't have a choice.
"The Maypole is under the ownership of Leeds and they are committed to replacing it, so we will get it back.
"Unfortunately, it is unlikely that is going to be done before the Tour comes through town.
"We will of course be making sure that the weathervane and plaque from the old Maypole are fixed to the replacement."
MP Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) was told by council officers that removing the pole, which was more than 50ft tall, was the only option as the area could not be safely cordoned off.
But he is angry at how the matter has been handled. He said: "People in Otley were dismayed at the sudden felling of the Maypole without the city councillors, me as the MP, or local businesses being informed - and so unable to tell people what had happened.
"People will also question whether it could have been removed and repaired, rather than cut down.
"What is crucial now is that the council seeks to put this right by getting a replacement, with the weathervane and plaque, in place by the time the Tour passes through."
Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) added: "This was the largest permanent Maypole in Yorkshire and Manchester Square looks empty without it.
“I understand the decision to cut it down but feel there could have been more public discussion as a number of residents have been quite upset about its loss."
Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), meanwhile, is seeking details about the city council's inspection schedule for the landmark.
He said: "The Tour was awarded in December, 2012 and Leeds has had a considerable amount of time to arrange a risk assessment and consult with elected members with regards the Maypole.
"Its removal just two weeks before the Tour is unacceptable."
A succession of large Maypoles have stood on the same spot in Otley, being replaced every 20 years or so, since the 17th Century.
*Leeds City Council was fined £12,000 after a toddler suffered serious injuries when a rotten flagpole in Otley Memorial Garden fell and hit her in 2012.
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