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Care home bid may see loss of Otley ‘institution’
One of Wharfedale's most popular cafes could be demolished if plans for an old school site in Otley progress.
Dunnies, on Bridge Street, opened in 1925 and has been popular ever since, especially with cyclists and bikers.
But the future of the business, and the adjoining Wharfe View News, is uncertain because of a four-storey care home scheme proposed for the former All Saints Middle School plot.
Developer Adlington wants to build a 55-flat complex for older people on the site, which has been branded an eyesore, and the plan would include demolishing Dunnies and the newsagents. A formal plan is yet to be submitted, but Adlington exhibited its initial proposals at two consultation events in the town last week.
Paul Davies, who owns Dunnies, confirmed he and his brother Michael, who owns and leases out Wharfe View News, would be looking to sell up should the plan progress.
He said: “The family has been running the business for about 50 years, but I'm 65 and thinking about my future.”
Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) said: “I appreciate that most of the site is derelict and needs something doing to it, but I am not sure that a large, four-storey building next to the bridge and facing the river is appropriate.
“It will dominate both the riverside and surrounding houses and seems to be totally inappropriate. I would also be concerned at the loss of Dunnies, as this is an Otley institution which, throughout my lifetime, has dispensed tea and bacon sandwiches to schoolchildren, cyclists, walkers, workers and bikers. If it went it would be like losing a dear old friend."
Town council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) said: “I’m sure there will be considerable mixed feelings about the proposed development. On the one hand, people will be very relieved that one of the town’s derelict sites, which has become an eyesore over the past ten years, is potentially going to be developed, but there will be major concern that the price is the loss of Dunnies.
"Dunnies is an institution, a real attraction for the many cyclists and motorcyclists that are attracted to the town and we can't afford to overlook that. However, it is clear the owners have agreed to sell-up.
“The town council, however, will want to work with local cycling groups and cafe owners to ensure the unique attraction of a Dunnies-style cafe is not lost.”
Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) said: “I am generally in favour of the development, but I would not be able to support the design as outlined. A four-storey ‘block of flats’ rising from the ground in this location by the river would not be acceptable to me nor, I suspect, the community at large.
“I, like many, think it would be sad to see an Otley institution like Dunnies disappear, but that is a decision that rests between the owner and the developer.”
A plan to build a dementia care home on the site was rejected earlier this year due to concerns about its positioning and the impact on neighbouring homes.